The following was written by the Keep Genealogical Records Open Workgroup:
Genealogists fight closing of public records as guise in war against ID theft and terrorism
A group of genealogists announced today that they have begun a project to educate governmental leaders and the public that closing or restricting access to many public records will have little impact on preventing an enormous identity theft problem or terrorism attacks in the United States.
“Federal and state governments have been closing or trying to close many public records or limiting the public’s access to them, especially vital records--birth, marriages, and deaths,” explains Jean Foster Kelley, CG (Certified Genealogist) of Tampa, Florida. “They want to protect people’s privacy, prevent identity theft, and prevent terrorism,” she says. “But we find there’s no evidence that open public records contribute to identity theft or terrorism to any measurable degree."
Instead, she says, restrictions actually prevent many genealogists, news people, and others who have legitimate reasons to see the records from freely viewing them.
She says she and four other genealogists formed the Keep Genealogical Records Open Workgroup (KGROW) to prepare a position paper to combat the “war on public records” movement that has swept the country since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The group plans to solicit support for its paper from the Association of Professional Genealogists, the news media, and other organizations later this summer and fall.
Kelley is co-chair of KGROW along with Dick Robinson, CG (Certified Genealogist), of Boynton Beach, Florida. Other members are: Alvie L. Davidson, CG (Certified Genealogist), Lakeland, Florida; Melinde Lutz Sanborn, FASG (Fellow, American Society of Genealogists), Derry, New Hampshire; and Frederick E. Moss, JD, LLM, Plano, Texas. KGROW is a project of the Florida Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). APG is the world’s leading professional genealogical organization of some 1,700 family history and related professionals.
Since 2001, most states have tightened public record laws, and more records are threatened every year. A 2006 Associated Press survey showed that states passed 616 new laws restricting access to public information, including vital records, and approved 284 laws that loosened public records access.