28 August 2004
We're at the copier station: Valerie is making copies because sometimes that's what she does, and I'm there because Valerie is there and she's awfully pretty. For some reason we got onto the subject of real estate, and I mentioned that my house was built back in 1948. "I don't know when mine was built," she said, at which point I darted back to my cave and called up the County Assessor's database.
I returned and announced: "Nineteen fifty."
"How did you find that out?" Valerie asked.
And she followed me back to the cave, where on the screen was a description of her house, its current market value, and every ownership change on it since, well, 1950.
Most people who have seen this database in action have been impressed that something like this was available in this putatively hick burg. Not Valerie. She was utterly horrified that any bozo from off the street could call up intensely-personal information like this. I pointed out that in years past, any bozo from off the street could walk into county offices and request exactly the same data: real-estate transactions are a matter of public record, after all.
She was not mollified. And she was even more upset when she caught sight of the name of her ex-spouse, who at one time was a co-owner of the house: presumably she got it in the divorce settlement. "They had to execute a transfer to put it in your name. He's a former owner. Of course his name will be on there." I can certainly see why she wouldn't want to be reminded of the guy and what kind of guy lets someone like Valerie get away, anyway? but divorce proceedings, too, are a matter of public record.
I don't think she was about to cry, but I've misread her before. Still, she seems to have a point: is it now too easy to access public records? It's not like J. Random Stalker is going to have a much better shot at her; he's got to know how to work the database, which has its quirks, and none of its contents are indexed by search engines, so merely Googling her won't produce any of this information.
I suppose it's a good thing I didn't bring up the GIS mapper, which presumably has an aerial view of her property.Posted at 8:53 AM to City Scene