Government Records and Your Privacy

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Public government records exist in order to make possible transparency in their administration and to account to the democratic society. However, it has become a controversy, for though it provides the public a right to information, it exposes privacy of individuals. Nearly every single major event in your life such as birth, marriage, purchase of property, or obtaining a license, is documented by these government recordsand made public for your easy access as well as for others.What makes the invasion of privacy of this nature so troubling? As there are not many restrictions on the publication of this information, almost every single person in the nation can gain access to them. Nowadays many public records are published online; hence anyone can gain access to details of individuals through the Internet. As a result, the records may be used by attorneys, government agencies, private investigators and other government agencies. Some unlucky individuals are even targeted by fraud companies and direct marketers.

A common example of government records in the United States is the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) driver’s license file in California. It contains detailed personal information such as your name, date of birth, residence and mailing address, license number, social security number, license status (whether it is valid, expired, suspended or revoked), all your major and minor traffic convictions, and failures to appear in court or payment of traffic fines. It even documents your physical appearance.

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles also keeps complete records of vehicle registrations including details such as the name of the vehicle owner, his home and correspondence address, the details of the vehicle, records of previous owners and transfer, and also details regarding the car loan. The files mentioned above can be consulted by attorneys, insurance companies, private investigators as well as employers. In the past, they were sold to direct marketers, but fortunately the government restricted access to it since 1990. However, it can still be available upon request through certain procedure.

Among all personal information documented in government public records, the most confidential details should be your name, birth date, social security number and address. If this information falls into the wrong hands, you may become the victim of frauds, robberies and other undesirable events.

The biggest danger possible with the disclosure of public records is the risk of identity theft. With easily available public records, preying individuals can gain access to all the confidential details needed to steal your identity. If you happen to have had an issue with bankruptcy or divorce, your social security number as well as the details of all your financial accounts will be documented in these records. Thus, it makes it a simple task to steal your identity. Your details can be used to obtain a loan, purchase assets, or even used to wipe out all the money from your account. Nowadays identity theft has become a wide spread crime, however, government public records makes it easier, and being careful yourself deems to be futile.

Another risk present because of government public records is the destruction of reputation. When certain information is made available, some individual may use the personal details against you. Defamation or sometimes slander may occur, and it will have a severe effect on the victim’s personal and social life. They may experience embarrassment or shame, when the details of their personal life such as multiple marriages, criminal offences and other details are broad-casted over the media by the ones who obtain their information through these public records.

An individual’s safety is also at risk. Sometimes crooks target individuals based on their financial status and vulnerability. Thus, with some information, the crooks may plan robberies, kidnap attempts or even rape more easily, causing disclosure of information a serious threat to personal safety. Some victims are also uneasy with reporting crimes, as they fear that their attackers or stalkers may use court records to track them down easily.

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