Public Records

Public records are legal documents or files carrying pieces of information that are not considered to be classified or confidential and therefore, are accessible by the public. Courts and government agencies keep such information in huge databases, and even though some are considered personal information, they can still be accessed by anyone.

There are some cases where individuals can choose the accessibility of their personal information though. For example, in the state of California, before two people get married, they have to fill out a marriage license application. While doing so, they can either choose their marriage to be “confidential” or “public”. If confidential, all official records of the marriage will be closed to the public. But if “public”, then a copy of their marriage record is available in the county in which the marriage was registered in.

What constitutes public record?

This largely depends on which country or state you live in, as every government has different laws regarding what is considered a public record and how they can be accessed. However, some of the most common and easily available public records include:

  • Birth and death records
  • Criminal records
  • Marriage and divorce records
  • Bankruptcy records
  • Lien information
  • Convicted sex offenders’ information (Law requires all states in the US to make these public records)

Some states even include information like campaign contributions, unemployment claims, tax information, licenses and certification, census records, real estate deeds and transactions and more.

Uses of public records

Public records have been made even more accessible by the technological revolution. Now, with just a few clicks on the internet, people can find out almost every information about you from your phone number, where you live to your bankruptcy records. It is by searching through such databases of public records that companies conduct background checks before hiring new employees.

Information brokers have also been making use of public records, gathering information of thousands of people and compiling them into readily and easily accessible profiles. They make profits from the recompilation and mining of such data.

Other uses of public records include payment of retirees’ pension benefits, ensuring that court-determined child support payments are made, and also to assist credit bureaus in making sure that accurate personal information of people are kept. This way, public records can have a serious effect on your credit scores as they contain your bankruptcy records, tax liens and court judgments.