CLEARWATER - Official and court records are open to and readily available to citizens. Many of these "public" records contain sensitive information such as Social Security, bank account and credit card numbers; and some records are accessible online, according to Ken Burke, Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court.
"If a company brings a mortgage in with a social security number on it, we would record that document. We don't have the right to alter documents that are official record," said Burke.
Internet access to many of these documents provides a quicker, easier means to gathering sensitive information, around-the-clock, 7 days a week, raising growing concern about identity theft.
"When you request a file we don't ask who you are or why you want to see it. You can go through that whole file and see what you want to see. That is your right under the law," said Burke. "In that sense there is no greater risk of privacy violation simply because the files may be online."
To remove or "redact" sensitive information, a citizen must contact the Clerk's office and request it. The citizen must first locate the file and know the OR (official record) book and page number where the information is contained.
To find the OR book and page number citizens can search official records. They can fill out a "Redaction Request Form" at the Clerk's offices or online at www.pinellasclerk.org/personalinfo.htm. Then submit the request via fax, email, mail or in person to the Clerk's office, which will blackout the information that state statutes describe as private.
"Of course, information must meet the criteria of the state statute to be redacted. We cannot just remove something that you don't want there," said Burke. "We don't have the authority to redact information other than what is expressed by Florida law."
For more information, contact the Clerk's Office at 727-464-4876 or visit the website.
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