Monday, August 06, 2007

Protecting "People" . . . or Keeping Things Secret?

I was afraid of this, when Oneida County records were taken off line a few months ago. A few social security numbers and birth dates that somehow found their way into instruments recorded at the Oneida County Clerk's Office became a media brouhaha, an excuse to give former Oneida County Clerk Rick Allen (no "yes man") a primary, and an excuse to take ALL records off line. Now information is being put back on-line -- but only for an anointed few.
"But the number of people getting Internet access to the database will be limited when the information is placed back online in a few months, Oneida County Clerk Sandra DePerno said. Passwords and identification names will be issued to members of the Oneida County Bar Association and local abstract companies, she said."

"Bar association members and abstract companies need access to the information to prepare deed and mortgage paperwork, DePerno said."
Why the exclusivity and the deference to a particular club? What about attorneys who do not belong to the Oneida County Bar Association? Why would not their need be as great? What about people who are pro se and representing themselves? Why shouldn't they be able to access records? What about people contracting with businesses for snow removal, house painting, etc.? Don't they have a need to be able to identify exactly whom they are dealing with under a "doing business as..." name?

What about the retired gadfly who can't sleep at night and has nothing better to do but to review land transactions in his pajamas -- all to determine who is benefiting from the actions of certain public officials?

Why are the people of Oneida County entitled to less than the people of: Monroe County (Rochester), Albany County, Suffolk County (Long Island), Erie County (Buffalo), Schenectady County, and Broom County (Binghamton) - - - just to name a few?

Maybe Ms. DePerno IS interested in protecting "People" -- the people who don't want their transactions available for general public consumption, available where they may be linked to and quickly disseminated by those who are internet savvy -- such as bloggers.

Welcome to Oneida County -- where who knows what is carefully controlled.


Mrs Mecomber said...

I'm more terrified that lawyers have our info than the average pajama joe.

Anonymous said...

What is really appalling is that the lawyers and abstract companies were against putting the records online in the first place.

The first dirty secret is that people have to pay lawyers and abstract firms to "look up" public information. Keeping it offline protects their income stream. Now they want it all for themselves.

The second dirty secret is that it was a rareity that someones SS number was on line. Consider the following logic:

If a bank requires a SS number on a document and that document is "attached" to an abstract when the mortgage is recorded, who's responsibility is it that the SS number is now part of a public record? The answer is: The attorney that represented the buyer/mortgagee. It is the attorneys responsibility to have a SS number redacted before the records are made public. After all, who buys a house without a lawyer? So....if my SS number fell into the wrong hands from an online record ( or if someone went down to the clerks office and got it in person ) I would my attorney that represented me at the closing responsibile for not protecting me.