Public records
Overview
 
Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered confidential. For example, in California, when a couple fills out a marriage license application, they have the option of checking the box as to whether the marriage is "confidential" (Record will be closed, and not opened to public once recorded) or "Public" (Record will become public record once recorded). Basically, if the marriage record is public, a copy of the record can be ordered from the County in which the marriage occurred.
Since the earliest organised societies
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

, with tax
Tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

ation, disputes, and so on, records of some sort have been needed.
Encyclopedia
Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered confidential. For example, in California, when a couple fills out a marriage license application, they have the option of checking the box as to whether the marriage is "confidential" (Record will be closed, and not opened to public once recorded) or "Public" (Record will become public record once recorded). Basically, if the marriage record is public, a copy of the record can be ordered from the County in which the marriage occurred.

History

Since the earliest organised societies
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

, with tax
Tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

ation, disputes, and so on, records of some sort have been needed. In ancient Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

 records were kept in cuneiform writing on clay tablets. In the Inca empire of South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, which did not have writing, records were kept via an elaborate form of knots in cords, quipu
Quipu
Quipus or khipus were recording devices used in the Inca Empire and its predecessor societies in the Andean region. A quipu usually consisted of colored, spun, and plied thread or strings from llama or alpaca hair. It could also be made of cotton cords...

, whose meaning has been lost.

In western Europe in the late middle ages public records included census
Census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

 records, birth, death, and marriage records, etc.; an example is the 1086 Domesday Book
Domesday Book
Domesday Book , now held at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond upon Thames in South West London, is the record of the great survey of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086...

 of William the Conqueror. The details of royal marriage
Royal intermarriage
Royal intermarriage is the practice of members of ruling dynasties marrying into other reigning families. It was more commonly done in the past as part of strategic diplomacy for reasons of state...

 agreements, which were effectively international treaties, were also recorded. The United Kingdom Public Record Office Act, formalising record-keeping by setting up the Public Record Office
Public Record Office
The Public Record Office of the United Kingdom is one of the three organisations that make up the National Archives...

, was passed in 1838.

Contents of public records

  • Records of law court proceedings.
  • Records of births, marriages, and deaths
  • Statistics regarding population and the economic activity of a country

Access to public records

Although public records are records of public business, they are not necessarily available without restriction, although Freedom of Information
Freedom of information
Freedom of information refers to the protection of the right to freedom of expression with regards to the Internet and information technology . Freedom of information may also concern censorship in an information technology context, i.e...

 (FOI) legislation that has been gradually introduced in many jurisdictions since the 1960s has made access easier. Each government has policies and regulations that govern the availability of information contained in public records. A common restriction is that data about a person is not normally available to others; for example the California Public Records Act (PRA) states that "except for certain explicit exceptions, personal information maintained about an individual may not be disclosed without the person's consent."

In the United Kingdom cabinet
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

 papers were subject to the thirty year rule
Thirty year rule
The "thirty year rule" is the popular name given to a law in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and Australia that provides that the yearly cabinet papers of a government will be released publicly thirty years after they were created....

: until the introduction of FOI legislation, cabinet papers were not available for thirty years; some information could be withheld for longer. the rule still applies to some information, such as minutes
Minutes
Minutes, also known as protocols, are the instant written record of a meeting or hearing. They typically describe the events of the meeting, starting with a list of attendees, a statement of the issues considered by the participants, and related responses or decisions for the issues.Minutes may be...

 of cabinet meetings.

Some companies provide access, for a fee, to many public records available on the Internet. Many of them specialize in particular types of information, while some offer access to different types of record, typically to professionals in various fields. Some companies sell software with a promise of unlimited access to public records, but may provide nothing more than basic information on how to access already available and generally free public websites.

In the United States

Access to US national public records is guided by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Requests for access to records pursuant to FOIA may be refused by federal agencies if information requested is subject to exemption, or some information may be redacted (deleted).

In addition to the national FOIA, all states have some form of FOI legislation
Freedom of information in the United States
Freedom of information in the United States refers to the independent bodies of Freedom of information legislation at the federal level and in the fifty states.-Federal level:...

. For example Colorado has the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA); in New Jersey the law is known as the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

There are many degrees of accessibility to public records between states, with some making it fairly easy to request and receive documents, and others with many exemptions and restricted categories of documents. One state that is fairly responsive to public records requests is New York, which utilizes the Committee on Open Government to assist citizens with their requests. A state that is fairly restrictive in how they respond to public records requests is Pennsylvania, where the law currently presumes that all documents are exempt from disclosure, unless they can be proven otherwise. The California Public Records Act - California Government Code §§6250-6276.48 - covers the arrest and booking records of inmates in the State of California jails and prisons, which are not covered by First Amendment rights (freedom of speech and of the press). Public access to arrest and booking records is seen as a critical safeguard of liberty.

Controversy

With the advent of the Internet and the Information Age, access to public records in the U.S. to anyone who wishes to view them has dramatically increased. Third-parties such as the information broker
Information broker
An information broker, also known as an independent information professional or information consultant, is a person or business that researches information for clients...

 industry make regular use of public records to compile profiles on millions of people that are easily accessible to anyone at the click of a mouse, and sometimes make a profit from the service of re-compiling and mining the data.

However, it's important to remember that public record data is usually beneficial to people. Such areas as child support, employment and identity theft prevention rely on accurate public record data to the benefit of consumers. They can ensure that child support payments are made as determined by the courts, assist credit bureaus in keeping accurate data and help in paying pension benefits to retirees. Many private matters such as the full accounts of divorce cases, insurance lawsuits, voter registration (varying from state to state), and almost any other transactions people make with the government or do through a courthouse, is put into public records and made available for all eyes of society. Employers regularly do background checks either on their own or through information agencies, and often come across information about a job applicant that can impact on the job decision process. Not vetting an employee properly can have liability implications for the employer For instance, driving records would be important to a school district looking to hire a bus driver. And criminal histories would be important to a child care facility that is hiring a staff person. The institution of public records was created to make the government accountable for its actions and to make operation of the government transparent. However, the advent of the Information Age and electronic databases has promoted efficient large-scale shuffling and mass-compilation of personal information that some believe has created a "dossier society" — a society in which everyone is subject to perpetual electronic profiles that document and amass everything known about an individual's private life. This has the effect and prognosis of invading the privacy of millions, preventing any social forgiveness for embarrassing matters that go through courts (civil and criminal) no matter how much time goes by, and creating a growing disenfranchised group of society. In some cases, it may be possible to have a public record sealed
Record sealing
Record sealing is the practice of sealing or, in some cases, destroying court records that would otherwise be publicly accessible as public records. The term is derived from the tradition of placing a seal on specified files or documents that prevents anyone from reviewing the files without...

 or expunged
Expungement
In the common law legal system, an expungement proceeding is a type of lawsuit in which a first time offender of a prior criminal conviction seeks that the records of that earlier process be sealed, thereby making the records unavailable through the state or Federal repositories. If successful, the...

 after a certain amount of time has elapsed.

Types of public records

While each state has its own standards about what information is considered public record, the following information is generally available under the Freedom Of Information Act.
  • Census
    Census
    A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

     records
  • Consumer protection
    Consumer protection
    Consumer protection laws designed to ensure fair trade competition and the free flow of truthful information in the marketplace. The laws are designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfair practices from gaining an advantage over competitors and may provide additional...

     information
  • Court dockets
  • Criminal record
    Criminal record
    A criminal record is a record of a person's criminal history, generally used by potential employers, lenders etc. to assess his or her trustworthiness. The information included in a criminal record varies between countries and even between jurisdictions within a country...

    s
  • Government spending
    Government spending
    Government spending includes all government consumption, investment but excludes transfer payments made by a state. Government acquisition of goods and services for current use to directly satisfy individual or collective needs of the members of the community is classed as government final...

     reports
  • Legislation
    Legislation
    Legislation is law which has been promulgated by a legislature or other governing body, or the process of making it...

     minutes
  • Professional and business license
    Business license
    Business licenses are permits issued by government agencies that allow individuals or companies to conduct business within the government's geographical jurisdiction. It is the authorization to start a business issued by the local government....

    s
  • Real estate appraisal
    Real estate appraisal
    Real estate appraisal, property valuation or land valuation is the process of valuing real property. The value usually sought is the property's Market Value. Appraisals are needed because compared to, say, corporate stock, real estate transactions occur very infrequently...

     records
  • Sex offender registration
    Sex offender registration
    Sex offender registration is a system in various states designed to allow government authorities to keep track of the residence and activities of sex offenders, including those who have completed their criminal sentences. In some jurisdictions , information in the registry is made available to the...

     files
  • Voter registration
    Voter registration
    Voter registration is the requirement in some democracies for citizens and residents to check in with some central registry specifically for the purpose of being allowed to vote in elections. An effort to get people to register is known as a voter registration drive.-Centralized/compulsory vs...


See also

  • Freedom of information legislation
    Freedom of information legislation
    Freedom of information legislation comprises laws that guarantee access to data held by the state. They establish a "right-to-know" legal process by which requests may be made for government-held information, to be received freely or at minimal cost, barring standard exceptions...

  • Personally identifiable information
    Personally identifiable information
    Personally Identifiable Information , as used in information security, is information that can be used to uniquely identify, contact, or locate a single person or can be used with other sources to uniquely identify a single individual...

     (PII)
  • Privacy laws of the United States
  • Public records in China
  • Public Record Office
    Public Record Office
    The Public Record Office of the United Kingdom is one of the three organisations that make up the National Archives...


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK