The Public Record and YOU!
Department: Clerk & Recorder
Release Date: May 10, 2017
Angela Myers, Larimer County Clerk & Recorder 970.498.7852 (Cell 970.227.0348)
I had a visit from a TV reporter this week regarding concern that some documents contained in the public record include social security numbers (SSN). 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 "ah 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.
I am committed to carefully following the law. The legislature has regularly debated the merits of requiring redaction (hiding) of SSN and/or other information from these very public records. Sweeping use of redaction has not been the result - primarily because those who rely on this information to effectively conduct business are at the table explaining why creating barriers to this information is problematic.
There are many hundreds of offices like ours across this nation, and online access to documents within Colorado or in other states is not unique. Some limit visibility of documents or document content, and some do not – either way, the unaltered version of these documents can be accessed through direct contact with that entity.
We live in an electronic age – the internet is now a "utility." I could choose not to allow online access, but that would keep Larimer behind the curve. These public records are used legitimately many hundreds of times a day to keep healthy commerce moving.
Rather than redaction, which even the legislature cannot agree is the correct action to take, we have taken the step, effective Friday (5/5) to hide from online view certain document types that most often contain SSN. We are also placing warnings on our website and at our counters – reminding all submitters that the information they place into the public record will be viewable by the entire public (online or otherwise) for all time. Further, we will do our best to inform citizens about how, within the confines of the law, to block all but the last four digits of their SSN from online view (go to www.larimer.org/recording/request_for_redaction.pdf for the required form).
Please contact me directly if you would like to discuss this further. In the meantime, take action to check out what is available on the internet about you and to manage your exposure appropriately. Rest assured, we will continue to maintain the Larimer public record with integrity and efficiency.