Online criminal records database proves highly controversial


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By Mark OíNeill
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Criminal Searches

If you have a US criminal record and you want to keep it hidden, then you will soon be out of luck.†† Anyone with an Internet connection who knows your full name and birthdate will be able to easily look it up on Criminal Searchesfor free.

The site covers all 50 states in the US and it has privacy advocates choking on their Cheerios.†† No longer do people have to hire expensive private investigators to check into people’s backgrounds – all they need is to type the person’s name into Criminal Searches.

But in a newspaper interview, the site owner admits there are faults with his service.†† Some law enforcement agencies are digitizing their files faster than others and if you don’t know the person’s birthdate, it’s very easy to confuse one identity with another.

Plus there is concern that people will start to abuse the database. Criminal Searches makes the task of finding if someone has an old criminal record so easy, it’s not hard to imagine that this information could be used for nefarious purposes.

What do you think?††† Is ‘Criminal Searches’ a worthwhile public service or a potential disaster waiting to happen?





18 Responses to Online criminal records database proves highly controversial

  1. Personally I think it’s disgusting, to impose on peoples privacy like that. And people seem to think that it’s okay because these people commited a crime once it somehow makes them less of a person?

    Now I don’t have a criminal record myself. But I’d know what I’d feel like if everything I wanted to keep private was laid out to bare to the extremely judgemental world we live in.

    Just another reason to be glad I don’t live America.

  2. Personally I think it's disgusting, to impose on peoples privacy like that. And people seem to think that it's okay because these people commited a crime once it somehow makes them less of a person?

    Now I don't have a criminal record myself. But I'd know what I'd feel like if everything I wanted to keep private was laid out to bare to the extremely judgemental world we live in.

    Just another reason to be glad I don't live America.

  3. I have a criminal record, however I’m an England resident. And I know for damn sure I don’t want the world knowing my criminal record. This has to be breaking some laws and is another unwanted invasion of people’s privacy.

    Absolutely outrageous, and as the above, glad I don’t live in America. Home of the ‘free’ indeed.

  4. I have a criminal record, however I'm an England resident. And I know for damn sure I don't want the world knowing my criminal record. This has to be breaking some laws and is another unwanted invasion of people's privacy.

    Absolutely outrageous, and as the above, glad I don't live in America. Home of the 'free' indeed.

  5. If I’m living next to a convicted drug dealer, I’d like to know. In a perfect world, people would learn from their past misdeeds, but it’s a rare occurrence from what I’ve personally seen.

    I don’t understand why transparency is such a big deal. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in Florida all my life, a state that happens to have a very open government. While I understand the privacy point-of-view, I think it’s a moot point because there are CCTV cameras going up everywhere, the internet is continually monitored and you can see what your neighbor is having for lunch on Google Earth. Privacy is quickly becoming a false perception, IMHO.

    • But what if that drug dealer made a one time stupid mistake, served their time in prison, and is now trying to move on with his or her life? If you found out from this online database about their conviction, would you hold that one mistake against them and discriminate against them?

      It’s a valid question and this is why the database is proving to be very controversial.

  6. If I'm living next to a convicted drug dealer, I'd like to know. In a perfect world, people would learn from their past misdeeds, but it's a rare occurrence from what I've personally seen.

    I don't understand why transparency is such a big deal. Maybe it's because I've lived in Florida all my life, a state that happens to have a very open government. While I understand the privacy point-of-view, I think it's a moot point because there are CCTV cameras going up everywhere, the internet is continually monitored and you can see what your neighbor is having for lunch on Google Earth. Privacy is quickly becoming a false perception, IMHO.

    • But what if that drug dealer made a one time stupid mistake, served their time in prison, and is now trying to move on with his or her life? If you found out from this online database about their conviction, would you hold that one mistake against them and discriminate against them?

      It's a valid question and this is why the database is proving to be very controversial.

  7. One of my close friends has an arrest record, and conviction, and it doesn’t show on this site, so go figure, we know it’s not 100%, and probably will never be. And for all of you who don’t like the fact you can find this stuff on one site, most of the time arrests and such are public record, check your clerk of courts office local website. One of the guys on my local news station’s message board always pulls up the arrest records for people in the news (eg some guy gets arrested for armed robbery, we get to see what he did before as well)

  8. One of my close friends has an arrest record, and conviction, and it doesn't show on this site, so go figure, we know it's not 100%, and probably will never be. And for all of you who don't like the fact you can find this stuff on one site, most of the time arrests and such are public record, check your clerk of courts office local website. One of the guys on my local news station's message board always pulls up the arrest records for people in the news (eg some guy gets arrested for armed robbery, we get to see what he did before as well)

  9. In the United States, all dealings with the courts is considered a matter of public record.

    Its hilarious that anyone that would have the balls to commit a crime would also be concerned about their privacy in regards to that crime.

    The right to privacy is not in the constitution, either.

    • So you don’t believe that anyone who makes a mistake and who serves their time deserves a second chance? That their past mistakes should hound them for the rest of their life? Is that what you’re saying?

      • This isn’t about second chances. This is about matters of public record. All dealings with the court are recorded, including convictions and dismissals.

        As an employer, criminal history checks are a standard procedure for just about every job. And when it comes to holding a position of trust, such as a government position, or a teacher, or even a lifeguard at a swimming pool, the risk of hiring people with a criminal history is too great. Such people will have to make do being trash collectors, or dustmen as you Brits call ‘em.

        Can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

  10. In the United States, all dealings with the courts is considered a matter of public record.

    Its hilarious that anyone that would have the balls to commit a crime would also be concerned about their privacy in regards to that crime.

    The right to privacy is not in the constitution, either.

    • So you don't believe that anyone who makes a mistake and who serves their time deserves a second chance? That their past mistakes should hound them for the rest of their life? Is that what you're saying?

      • This isn't about second chances. This is about matters of public record. All dealings with the court are recorded, including convictions and dismissals.

        As an employer, criminal history checks are a standard procedure for just about every job. And when it comes to holding a position of trust, such as a government position, or a teacher, or even a lifeguard at a swimming pool, the risk of hiring people with a criminal history is too great. Such people will have to make do being trash collectors, or dustmen as you Brits call 'em.

        Can't do the time, don't do the crime.

  11. I think this is a complicated issue.

    On one hand most people want to know if they have a former violent offender in their midst. No one wants to be around a serial rapist or have their kids around a known child molester. I can understand their fears and concerns.

    On the other hand, our legal system is set up mostly for the purposes of rehabilitation. We’ve all heard the stories of people who had their homes or places of work picketed by fearful members of a community to have them removed from that community. How is a person supposed to be rehabilitated into a respectable, useful member of society if they cant be left alone to get on with their lives? I think this website could contribute to this sort of mass hysteria.

    Some people might say “Canít do the time, donít do the crime”, but as far as I know, most criminals are sentenced to serve a certain period of time for their crimes and then are released having paid their debts to society. They are generally not sentenced to the rest of their lives, (and if they are, then they are not released among us to concern ourselves with). Services like this one carry on the stigma of former incarceration for a person’s entire life with no hope of recourse or rehabilitation.

    The same people might say that its a matter of public record and they would be right but the difference here is the method of obtaining that information. The normal means of gathering this information is that someone would have to drive down to their local courthouse and spend some time going through the public records until they found what they were looking for. This requires a little effort so most people wont do it unless they think there is a good reason for it. Doing it online so easily negates all of that effort so people are going to be more apt to do it for reasons which are not necessarily all that worthy. I believe the more important thing here is not the finding out but the reasoning behind it.

    I think if you see some guy skulking around and you think he’s up to no good then fine, go look him up. On the other hand if someone new moves into your neighborhood, you should not have the ability to easily go snooping around in his/her past just for the sake of doing so. So you see how the inconvenience of existing process affords people some measure of privacy but still guarantees that the people who need to know have the ability to find out.

    As I said, its a complicated issue. I think that everyone deserves a second chance at life if they’ve paid their debt to society so I can’t go along with a service that makes obtaining that second chance impossible. At the same time I can’t fault parents for wanting to keep their kids away from predatory offenders. I guess what really needed is some type of control to insure that the information is not used irresponsibly.

    Just my $00.02
    Dave

  12. I think this is a complicated issue.

    On one hand most people want to know if they have a former violent offender in their midst. No one wants to be around a serial rapist or have their kids around a known child molester. I can understand their fears and concerns.

    On the other hand, our legal system is set up mostly for the purposes of rehabilitation. We've all heard the stories of people who had their homes or places of work picketed by fearful members of a community to have them removed from that community. How is a person supposed to be rehabilitated into a respectable, useful member of society if they cant be left alone to get on with their lives? I think this website could contribute to this sort of mass hysteria.

    Some people might say "Can’t do the time, don’t do the crime", but as far as I know, most criminals are sentenced to serve a certain period of time for their crimes and then are released having paid their debts to society. They are generally not sentenced to the rest of their lives, (and if they are, then they are not released among us to concern ourselves with). Services like this one carry on the stigma of former incarceration for a person's entire life with no hope of recourse or rehabilitation.

    The same people might say that its a matter of public record and they would be right but the difference here is the method of obtaining that information. The normal means of gathering this information is that someone would have to drive down to their local courthouse and spend some time going through the public records until they found what they were looking for. This requires a little effort so most people wont do it unless they think there is a good reason for it. Doing it online so easily negates all of that effort so people are going to be more apt to do it for reasons which are not necessarily all that worthy. I believe the more important thing here is not the finding out but the reasoning behind it.

    I think if you see some guy skulking around and you think he's up to no good then fine, go look him up. On the other hand if someone new moves into your neighborhood, you should not have the ability to easily go snooping around in his/her past just for the sake of doing so. So you see how the inconvenience of existing process affords people some measure of privacy but still guarantees that the people who need to know have the ability to find out.

    As I said, its a complicated issue. I think that everyone deserves a second chance at life if they've paid their debt to society so I can't go along with a service that makes obtaining that second chance impossible. At the same time I can't fault parents for wanting to keep their kids away from predatory offenders. I guess what really needed is some type of control to insure that the information is not used irresponsibly.

    Just my $00.02

    Dave