Public Records as Defined and Regulated by Privacy Laws
Public records refer to information collected and maintained by a governmental organization that is accessible to the general public. For example, in California, a marriage license can be a public record if not otherwise stated by the couple. Public records are kept not just for record-keeping, but also to help people trying to gather things like past-due child support payments, collect pension benefits, ensure the accuracy of credit reports, etc.
Public Records and Data Privacy
Public records play a vital role in government transparency and provide important information for citizens but there are costs associated with providing and maintaining this data.
The challenge of public records data has more to do with the risks to personal privacy than actual monetary costs. Public records present significant data privacy risk because criminals are able to mine these records for malicious use such as identity theft, spearfishing, and fraud. Additionally, the more these records become available online, the easier it is for thieves to access personal information.
What are some public record examples?
- Court records of civil proceedings such as divorce and breach of contract.
- Birth records and certificates.
- Criminal records and criminal proceedings regarding personal, non-civil, offenses.
- Business records of financial performance.
- Property records of ownership and transactions.
Here are additional resources:
- IAPP article, “Publicly available data under the GDPR: Main considerations”
- California Attorney General
- European Commission, GDPR regulation text (Articles 9, 14, 29, 86)
You just learned about Public Record, now explore related terms like Personal Data, Data Classification, and Data Privacy.