At first, the idea of being able to access a person’s criminal record dating back several years may seem convenient – but what if there are errors?
That is just one of the privacy and civil liberties concerns that have been raised by groups and individuals, as more states move to introduce searchable online criminal records databases, the Associated Press reports.
These systems make delving into someone’s past easier than ever before. For example, Vermont’s system requires that you supply a person’s name, date of birth and pay a $20 fee.
But the records that are maintained online are not as comprehensive as those kept at the courthouse, prompting Allen Gilbert of the ACLU to argue that people accessing the database do not receive a full picture.
"There might be something about the conviction that if you looked at the court record, you’d better understand about what happened and what’s behind the conviction," he told the news provider.
Another concern is that of mistaken identity. Michigan warns users of its system that because it is based on name, it is not foolproof.
A recent story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram drew attention to massive gaps in the state’s online criminal records database, which criminal justice professor Mike Vaughn attributed to human error.