Now that I am approaching the double digits with respect to creating my youtube video series that I currently call Real Estate Reviews, I began to wonder what recourse there might be if a property owner, or seller, could complain to me about their contact information showing up in a video.
My initial assumption was that I’m free to access the information for my videos because, after all, they are public records… not private records. But I wanted to do a bit of research to see what Mr Google might have to say about the matter.
The first thing I found was: https://smallbiztrends.com/2014/07/sued-publishing-public-records.html - “Can your website be sued for publishing public records?” The following quote from the article indicates that the court recognizes that public records are indeed public and can be published on a website:
“In the suits, Eng claimed that his personal information, including name and address, are private and cannot be published or shared online, even though they were part of his own public court filings. TechDirt and PACERMonitor were only making available public documentation from Eng’s own lawsuits against another author when they were sued the first time. These lawsuits were quickly dismissed by Judge Eric N. Vitaliano of U.S. District Court in New York.”
The second thing I found was: https://www.consumerreports.org/consumerist/its-creepy-but-not-illegal-for-this-website-to-provide-all-your-public-info-to-anyone/ - “It’s Creepy, But Not Illegal, For This Website To Provide All Your Public Info To Anyone.” The following quotes are significant:
“And it’s inevitable because public records are, well, public, Tien continued. All that public records data is, every day, easily and readily available to police, governments, marketers, and even journalists. Millions of employees at thousands of public and private entities can, usually through paid means, quickly assemble profiles and dossiers about basically anyone.”
“By merely existing in this world, you are going to continue to generate records. Your life, legally lived, is traceable. Your information is known and recorded, and what can be put in a database can be accessed. Until or unless the law changes in a significant way, nothing is going to alter that.”
And, “Tien is right that FamilyTreeNow is just the messenger — and as far as he or we could tell, it’s not in violation of existing law.”
The third thing I found was: https://www.whitepages.com/reverse-address which has a very straightforward query that links an address you provide to the name of the person associated with it. So anybody who sees a home for sale on a site like redfin or zillow can simply type the address of the home in whitepages.com and come up with a name.
Therefore, I can now rest easy that my Real Estate Review videos are not in any way not complying with law. As the “creepy” article stated, until there are changes to the law, public records will remain public… for any eyes to see. If you happen to be someone whose name turned up in a video, I’m sorry if it unnerved you. The existing system is the framework, and that’s what I aim to stay within.