The United States is a democratic country and as a result of this the creation and maintenance of public records plays a vital role in the democratic process. People have a right to access these public records to find the information that they want. This ensures that the government is transparent and accountable to its citizens.
Basically a public record is information that the government records and stores. Any member of the public can access these public records. There are all kinds of public records and although a lot are stored in computer databases there are other examples such as paper based records, photographs, drawings, maps and so on. Some public records are on DVD’s and CD’s.
The Public Records Debate
There has been a debate about what should and shouldn’t be included in public records for a long time now and this will continue into the future. A lot of people are against the government sharing information about where people live, if they have a criminal record and the amount of tax that they pay.
The government maintains that this kind of information should be freely available to its citizens in the name of democracy. Opponents to the amount of records on public view argue that the government is overstepping the mark to prove that it is accountable. They also say that the government is wasting far too much public money on maintaining these records.
For many years governments have been providing public records. The first public records go back many centuries to ancient Roman times. It is very important for citizens to view public records to determine how society and governments have changed over the years.
Many economists will study public records to examine wealth factors and predict future financial trends. There have been unstable times in the history of the United States and the studying of public records can help to avoid a repeat of these events.
The Dark Side of Public Records
Although most citizens of America will agree with the principle of creating and keeping public records a number believe that the government will use the information against them. It is the “big brother” scenario where people feel a violation of their rights with government agencies spying on them.
It is a belief of many that the government keeps far too much information about individuals. In reality the spying on private citizens and the big brother concept are hard to prove. A lot of public fears about this are unfounded but a lot of people believe that the government goes too far at times.
The monitoring of communications between individuals has been taking place since the 1860’s in the United States. During the Lincoln administration they kept records of all telegrams sent. With today’s technology almost anything is possible. History has seen many examples of the public fighting back over records and their uses.
Useful Public Records
Most people would agree that the government needs to create census records make them available to the public. This is something that goes a long way to demonstrate government accountability. The allocation of representatives from all of the states in the House of Representatives relies on census records.
Census records also allow families to find out about their ancestors and also living relatives that they are not in contact with. It is possible to go back a number of years to trace relatives and to find out important details about them.
Another good use of public records is the registrations of births. Every citizen is entitled to a unique identity and the keeping of birth records and the provision of birth certificates is very important. Citizenship records are also very valuable.
When a person in the United States dies there is a death record created. This is another important record as it confirms a death and the issuance of a birth certificate can provide family members with proof for insurance claims and other legal matters.
Public records of other activities are kept and accessible too such as:
- Issued driving licenses
- Deeds for property
- Records of marriages and divorces
- Arrest and criminal records
- Taxation records
- Voting registration records
- Social security records
There are specific privacy laws which prevent full access to some public records. Other records are freely available to all. The government has the ultimate say on this and makes all decisions based on how it will help the citizens of the country in general.
One set of public records that are fully available to the public are property deeds. Purchasing properties can be a complicated and risky business. People have a right to know about financial liens on properties, rights of way issues and so on.
The government believes that it is the right of every citizen to know about dangerous criminals. To this end they make arrest records and criminal records available for public consumption.
Not everyone agrees with this policy. A person arrested for a very minor offence many years ago should not have this turned into a heavy burden for them to carry all of their life. It depends on your point of view really and overall we believe that these records need to have public access.
The Benefit of Public Records
How beneficial are the public records currently available in the United States? This is a difficult question to answer. Some people would argue that they are very important while others take the opposite view. If public records are used a lot by the public then that in itself provides justification for having them.
The Internet has made the world a lot smaller. These days it is possible to make connections with people all over the country and across the world. There is a real need to validate people that you do not know and trust and public records certainly help in that regard.
Safety is a real concern these days. When you meet people over the Internet you do not know who they really are. There have been many scams where people have lost everything. Worse than this is people harmed by strangers they know nothing about.
The Easy Way to Access Public Records
Although public records are there for public consumption they are not always easy to access. In the United States reputable online background checking services have access to many sets of public records across the country. You can find what you are looking for very easily.