Privacy moves to top of legislative agenda

AUSTIN, TEXAS — A panel of government and business experts here for the GTC 2000 Southwest conference agreed that privacy is going go be a key legislative issue this year and in years to come.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion on privacy, Tom O'Conner of CourtLink, a provider of systems that allow public access to court records, called the situation "an ongoing conflict." As governments rush to make more services and information available online, they will soon realize not everything is appropriate to post, he said.

For example, he said, court records pertaining to divorces, adoptions, juveniles and first-time offenders might not be appropriate to post.

"The technology has raised a whole host of issues," O'Conner said.

Another problem is how governments should handle bulk requests for data, he said. For example, a newspaper recently asked the Washington, D.C., government for information on all DUI cases. The government declined, saying they couldn't handle such a huge request.

And Rhea Ballard-Thrower, associate librarian at the Georgia State University Law Library, predicted that some governments soon will be pulling information posted on their World Wide Web sites fearing liability.

"We're waiting for a case where somebody sues a state because they make something available online and a third party gets a hold of it," she said.

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