Does Public Access Imply Ubiquitous or Immediate? Issues Surrounding Public Documents Online
David W. Miller (California State University, Northridge, USA), Andrew Urbaczewski (University of Michigan - Dearborn, USA) and Wm. David Salisburg (University of Dayton, USA)
Copyright: © 2008
In the information age, various entities (e.g., citizens or business concerns) are now able to access and gather large amounts of publicly available information online, which has obvious benefits. However, there are perhaps unfavorable consequences to this information gathering, and little attention has been paid to these. This chapter highlights the various issues that are created by having unfettered access to documents online, as well as the ability of citizens and investigators to compile databases of personal information on individuals. We cite existing laws to support the position of having limits on the freedom of access, and we propose several strategies for consideration in balancing the rights of the public to access public information while yet protecting and celebrating individual privacy. While the majority of this paper deals with American laws and history, international examples are also noted. In the post-9/11 world, a great deal of reasonable concern has been raised by governmental information gathering. We suggest that equal attention should be paid to ubiquitous access to public records, even by individuals and non-government agencies, and potential concerns for individual privacy that this access might raise.