Larimer County clerk: Public records and the internet age

Reporter-Herald (Loveland): I had a visit from a TV reporter this week regarding concern that some documents contained in the public record include Social Security numbers. The concern was compounded by the fact that we have recently improved public access to documents online. The reporter expressed a strong sentiment that this creates a ripe opportunity for identity thieves.

It is easy to see how the initial reaction to knowing this information is available in the public record can be sensationalized. For some, it is an “a-ha” moment — and if we put the best construction on it, reminds each of us that we need to take responsibility for our info online. The Larimer public record is but a tiny speck of the internet iceberg. Information contained in our records is likely available via Google with just a few keystrokes.

The work we do here in the Recording Department with public record is — by very definition — intended to put the public on notice and to maintain that record for all time. We are merely the “filing cabinet” for the information. We make no judgment calls regarding content, who is filing/retrieving it, or for what purpose — except as very specifically outlined in statute.

It is critical that those submitting documents be certain they want/need the content of those documents to be available to the public — online or otherwise — for all time.

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