In the U.S., the laws governing the privacy of vital records vary from state to state. Some states are very open, while others are very restrictive. This is a hot topic among genealogists. Most states restrict access to the individual or family members for a certain number of years. In some states it is 100 years for birth records and 50 years for death records. In Texas it is 50 years for birth records, and 25 years for death records (at least that is what it used to be in Texas). Of course, this is just for the official vital records. As Ralph and others have pointed out, there are many other sources for this information--just take a look at Ancestry.com to see what is out there (however you need to be a subscriber to see many of their databases: www.ancestry.com).
Indiana University Law Library
From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jenny Lobb
Sent: Wednesday, August 06, 2008 7:48 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: privacy of birth dates
HI Ralph et al,
> i'm asking the questions! people keep on suggesting that birth
> and death information is private. i'm trying to find out why.
> what laws govern the secrecy of this information? aren't certain
> vital statistics and information public?
I don't know about laws governing privacy of birth or death dates. Many
books mention the full birth date and place of birth of authors and of
course, we routinely use this in our NACO authority records.
Also, Stephen Arakawa wrote:
> What are the limits to the amount of information we want to record in publicly available files?
> I hope authority work doesn't someday become an enabler for stalkers!
Plenty of people give out way more information than their date of birth
on the internet (witness facebook profiles and Livejournals and blogs
that include all sorts of information). Many people post the equivalent
of online diaries in their LiveJournals and let the world read about
their opinions on political and social issues, their favorite tv shows,
their pets, their hobbies, and even explicit details of their sex lives.
This information would be way more helpful for a stalker than just a
mere date of birth.
Also, while not everyone posts LJ blogs or Facebook profiles, many
people post resumes on the internet or have professional webpages and
while they don't necessarily include their birthdates, most people give
their year of college graduation which for most people is college degree
date minus 22 years. All of this information is freely available to
those who care to google. If you google your own name, you might be
surprised by the extent of information out there.
In short there is very little privacy available on the net.
Social Sciences Catalog Librarian
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