Privacy and Access to Public Records in the Information Age


Online public record access brings a wealth of benefits ranging from greater government access and accountability to increased cost-savings and efficiencies. However, due to the presence of highly sensitive, personal data, an increase in public records access also brings potential dangers, including heightened risk of identity theft and frivolous snooping into the affairs of others.

Historically, public records have had some measure of public accessibility in order to empower citizens with the ability to observe the goings-on of government, leading to greater government accountability. Until the rise of the internet, citizens have had their privacy protected through practical obscurity (the notion that to actually look at public records, a person would have to physically visit the record holder’s office to see a record).

Expanding on lessons learned from the experiences of the Privacy and Public Access Sub-Committee of the Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on Technology and the Courts, this paper will discuss the controversies surrounding online access to public records. In addition, it will offer recommendations as to how government can, by modifying public records laws and rules so that public record information is the same online and off-line, embrace the opportunities provided by online public records while securing the privacy of its citizens.


Computer Law | Constitutional Law | Law and Politics | Legislation | State and Local Government Law

Date of this Version

May 2006