Friday, February 8, 2008

Is More Access A Good Idea?

So a very quiet news items recently was the Connecticut Judicial Department making its database of criminal records (since 2000) now available online. It includes convictions for crimes -- including motor vehicle infractions -- with the idea of more transparency for the department and better access to the information.

All the information is already public record, so really what has changed is being able to search it from the comfort of your computer rather than having to trek down to state offices. It also has a very convenient-to-search interface.

I just caution you before you click that going to this site is like trying crack -- after I was done typing in my name (I'm clean!) as well as my friends, co-workers and neighbors, I started trolling for old high school friends, college buddies, former acquaintances and even past girlfriends. Very highly addictive. . . .

And I wonder, if not a bit too invasive also. Yes, all the data is already available to all, but are we losing a level of privacy by having it so easily accessible? I know there's also harassment laws and employment considerations -- and even though there are bold disclaimers on how the information is to be used, I'm not naive enough to think someone out there won't use it in less than the spirit in which making it accessible was intended.

Obviously, there's already a state sex offender registry (which I don't think most would argue with), and most local newspapers already have some sort of police blotter roundup -- I guess my question is do we really need to have access to every single traffic ticket conviction? Is all access too much access? Where is the line between needing to know for safety's sake and invading privacy?

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