The Importance of Shielding Sensitive Data
For years, the title industry has made concerted efforts to protect the Social Security numbers and other sensitive information of individuals involved in real estate transactions. In today’s environment of rising hate- and cyber-crime, the need to do so is more important than ever.
A case in point involves the shooting of a U.S District Court’s 20-year-old son last year by an internet-savvy killer who was able to compile personal information about the judge, including her home address.
The tragedy has prompted bills in several states, and at the federal level, to shield home addresses and personal data of those who serve on the bench and/or in law enforcement.
The American Land Title Association (ALTA) has been working with Senate staff on minor changes to the federal bill to ensure it does not impact the ability of protected parties to buy or sell real estate. Such efforts continue as various types of redaction and data-shielding bills are introduced.
In Arizona, currently, anyone eligible for data protection can file an affidavit with the court to prohibit the public from accessing their personal information. Buyers must get permission to have information redacted, and sellers need to give the title company authorization to review documents. Real estate professionals have access to the data.
Minnesota’s “Safe at Home” program allows state-certified individuals to use a post office box as their personal address, although full access to their information is extended to real estate and title professionals.
Because redaction of name and property information from public land records could have unintended consequences, including hindering people from buying and selling real estate, ALTA believes the best way to shield sensitive information is to limit access to it to those who “need to know,” like real estate and title professionals.
As redaction and other methods of shielding sensitive information are debated more frequently, we stand with ALTA in the commitment to promote privacy bills and programs that protect individuals while preserving access to the data needed by industry professionals responsible for timely transactions and closings.
Barbara Pronin is an award-winning writer based in Orange County, Calif. A former news editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism and corporate communications, she has specialized in real estate topics for over a decade.
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