Screening Public Records

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A recent opinion from the Texas Attorney General is designed to protect your privacy, but its causing headaches down at the courthouse.

Rows and rows of public records might now have to be screened before they actually made public.

"It's sort of like dropping a pebble in water with the ripple effects it can touch an awful lot of things and I think in this case, the legislature didn't think of where the ripple would go," say Margaret Grynwald, President of Sherman Title Company.

Grynwald is referring to a legal opinion by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, which states social security numbers on public records have to be removed before they are made public. For title companies who depend on records to make closings, but for counties, the opinion has caused chaos instead of calmness.

"There's a balance and at this point we're trying to release government records as quickly as possible but redacting social security numbers," says Van Price, Grayson County District Attorney.

On February 21, Attorney General Abbott's opinion pertains to all county clerk records that fall under section 552.147 of the Public Information Act, including titles and whole lot more.

"We also look into birth certificates, deeds and other records so its a vast number of records and it can't be done overnight, its been a slow process," says Price.

Officials say increased security fraud through the use of social security numbers, might have led to the opinion.

"It was never intended as an identification number so maybe we have to go back to the basics, is this an id number we want to know you by," says Grynwald.

And county leaders hope they came up with a cost effective solution, maybe through the use of advanced technology.

"Till you'd have one document with the social security number but one without it," says Price.

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