Monday, February 12, 2007

Privacy raised to level of Terrorism, Drugs

This bit from my hometown paper, written by ace real estate appraiser David Lewis, uses privacy, identity theft and terrorism to support his objection to a law requiring disclosure of the amount of real estate transactions. In some ways,

The proposed law is also dangerous. This is the era of terrorism and identity theft. Even the individual investors who make a $1 million or less on a property sale can become targets.

When these sales prices are reported, the information won't become dusty trivia hidden away in the basement of a rural courthouse. The prices will be on the Internet, easily accessible from anywhere in the world. Texans will be exposed. Should the elderly widow have her real estate wealth advertised to crooks and con artists? If we lift the veil on real estate sales prices, we will open the door of opportunity to the criminal element who will misuse this information. These incidences may be rare, but even one tragic case is too many.

According to Mr. Lewis' byline, he was a founding board member of the Harris County Appraisal District. Check out the website. I remember when they used to have sketches of the houses, they aren't there anymore. According to the website disclaimer:

Texas law prevents us from displaying residential sketches on our website. You can see the sketch or get a copy at HCAD's information center at 13013 NW Freeway.

Although hoisting his argument on the image of an elderly Texas widow being robbed of her ranch then being bombed by terrorists is naked fear mongering, there is some point to be made here. As Texas law has acknowledged, there is different level of privacy between public records available on the Internet, and public records you can only get by waltzing into an office and get face to face with a human, J. J. Gittes style.

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