Implications of a reporting assignment


A couple of weeks ago we received an in-depth assignment. Everyone in our class was given an address of a house and we were told to find out everything about the people who owned the house without contacting them or entering their property. This was my first time experiencing hands-on investigative work and it was thrilling and surprisingly easy.

Why do I say thrilling? Because, as I drove by the house while munching on my Publix sub, I felt like a CIA agent. Why do I say surprisingly easy? Because the ease at which I could find private information about strangers without any legal restrictions surprised me.

As a person who studied theory of knowledge, the implications of the task I had just completed dawned on me and reminded me of George Orwell’s famous 1984 quote “Big Brother is Watching You.” During my day of investgative work I had the opportunity to access all kinds of public records information, like someone’s criminal record, marriage certificate, birthday, legal involvement, the day they registered as a voter, who they were married to, if they were divorced and if they had kids.

Our information is everywhere and, as Orwell appropriately summarized, “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.” With Facebook documenting our every move socially and LinkedIn documenting our every move in the workforce, there is not much we can hide from the public and, more importantly, the government.

As citizens of this country, we have the right to access all of this information, refusing to hand over certain information that we request is against the law. In regards to public records, even voter registration is a public record in the U.S. The only two areas that maintain restrictions is a person’s Social Security number and their driver’s license number.