Less Vital Record Information Available Free on the Internet
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California Governor Gray Davis signed an Executive Order effectively forcing geneology research site RootsWeb to remove California birth and death records from its database. A surge in complaints from Texas residents prompted the site to also remove records from that state as well. Additionally, marriage records from Maine have also been removed. The move is in response to information that suspected terrorists involved in the September 11 attack on the United States may have created false identities using information culled from this Vital Record information.

Initial reports indicated that RootsWeb would remove information for any individuals who contacted the site and requested removal. After reportedly receiving a flood of calls from concerned individuals, Rootsweb voluntarily removed the California and Texas information even prior to Davis' Executive Order.

The California database includes names, birth dates, mother's maiden name and place of birth for more than 24 million individuals born in California between 1905 and 1995. The information had been made available for sale on CD-ROM ($900 for the birth records and $600 for death records) from the state Department of Health Services. California Health & Safety Code* (Section 103525) mandates that such information be made available to the public. Additionally, the California Government Code* (Section 6250 also referred to as the Public Records Act) states that "mindful of the right of individuals to privacy...access to information concerning conduct of the people's business is a fundamentalright of every person in the state." Section 6254 Paragraph (a) of the Government Code specifically "states that the Department of Health Services (among many other agencies) must "establish written guidelines for accessibility of records."

Michael Quinn, director of the California Department of Health Services told C|net recently, "we're required by the Public Records Act to produce this index and keep it available to the public." For many, it is not the the accessibility of the records that causes concern, but rather the ease with which they have becom available on the Internet with no means of tracking individuals who are requesting specific records.

Davis' Executive Order bans the selling of California records. It extends only until January 14, 2002 when the State Department of Health Services must report back to the Governor.

*The Legislature's searchable California Code online does not allow for direct links to individual code sections. Clicking this link will take readers to the Code's search page. Checking the box next to "Government Code" and clicking the "Search" button will bring up a Table of Contents for that Code with links to the various Sections. The same is true for the "Health & Safety Code." User can also keyword search either of those codes to return the sections mentioned here.


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