The age of public information saturation

By Tammy Jackson . . . Recently in my boredom I decided to look at my local Clerk of Courts public records online to see what it says about me. I have no criminal convictions. To my amazement, after having looked a few years ago and finding nothing except my divorce info, I discovered that traffic speeding tickets from the 1990s, some twenty-five years ago, are listed — as if this is vital information about who I am. Zooming along at 38mph in a 25mph speed zone in 1990 must be pertinent information to need be listed today. I suppose the fact that my driving record was less than squeaky clean in my late teens and early twenties must prove that I’m at risk to reoffend according to a society with a “Right to Know” addiction. It may very well have mattered for a brief part of my life. Today, not so much. The same can be said of anyone listed on registries and lists today.

In the state of Ohio, as is the case in most states, minor traffic violations remain on your driving record for two years in most instances and can potentially affect your auto policy premiums for a three-year period according to the insurance companies. So I ask: What does this public information really have to do with my driving ability some twenty five years later?

Furthermore, not only are a couple of speeding tickets listed, but also my married name is provided in parentheses. I changed my maiden name to my husband’s last name in 2006. Even more invasive to me is that my current address is listed, not the address where I resided in the 1990’s. Is a person really being paid to update personal information for traffic violations almost thirty years later? Even if there is an existing computer program that automatically adds updated personal information, at what cost was this program and why would any department or agency pay to implement a tool that delved into such antiquated and insignificant minutiae?

One can only imagine the shock — based on all the “public” information that exists online due to overtly aggressive proponents who insist this makes us safer — when future generations discover their ancestors were heathens. It seems that Great Grandma Jackson’s driving record will be far more significant and exciting to learn of compared to her Kohl’s department store bridal registry or professional career.

I thought at one time that wrongdoings, no matter what they involved, were to become the past once whatever form of retribution was completed. Just because an ability to seek personal information about someone exists doesn’t make it a prudent choice. It seems this saturation of public information at our fingertips should cause as great a concern with unconstitutional repercussions as it does with our trying to figure out who the unlawful citizens complied on some list or registry are. But I guess that’s just too antiquated of a philosophy for today’s standards of public information sharing.

Me today, YOU tomorrow.

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