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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 21, 2007 9:57 AM. The previous post in this blog was ''A really friendly guy, really outgoing''. The next post in this blog is Fun ringtone. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Judge worried about names on PortlandMaps

We blogged a while back about the City of Portland's new practice of posting property owners' names, along with property maps and aerial photos, on PortlandMaps. We were vaguely uneasy about it, and we are not alone in that regard. Apparently one of the local judges is concerned about the practice as well. Here's part of an e-mail exchange on the subject, sent along by an alert reader:

From: Mills, Michael (Ombudsman) []
Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2007 9:36 AM
To: ***
Subject: RE: Name on Portland maps


I did receive additional information yesterday that addressed the concern about someone mining the information to eventually offer search by name capability. Below is the response from the City Technology staff which resulted from an inquiry from one of our county judges.


Dear Judge ... :

Thank you for your message. The property ownership information listed on PortlandMaps comes from Multnomah County. They are the custodians of these public records. You will have to contact Multnomah County to determine whether or not they can block your name for safety reasons or grant other exceptions. (Ref: ORS 192 The number for Multnomah County Records Management (Kathy Tuneberg) is (503) 988-3375.

As for the concern over the mining of the property owner names that could lead to the development of a search by name capability, I received the following opinion from the City's technology personnel. Please note that the City of Portland has no intention of providing a reverse search capability (name search) as some other Oregon counties provide.

-----Original Message-----
From: Schulte, Rick
Sent: Tuesday, November 20, 2007 10:07 AM
To: Mills, Michael (Ombudsman); Greinke, Mark
Cc: Butman, Laurel; Bauer, Dan; Holmstrand, Phillip; Nguyen, Thanh Xuan
Subject: RE: Listing on

Someone would first need to have a list of all the addresses in each County. Then they would need to write a program to automatically search one by one. Then after each search they would need to get to the second page to retrieve the owner name. This would be a lot of work for something that is readily available elsewhere. This is why search engines are not able to traverse into our site. If it could be done our database would already be indexed by Google and that hasn't happened.

Also, we have monitors set up to watch for unusually high traffic coming from a single user. If this gets triggered we can investigate to see if it is a legitimate use of our system or if someone is trying to subvert it and mine for data. If we suspect this to be the case we will contact them and/or block their machine from accessing our site.

There is no need for anyone to go through all this work because they can go and buy the data from the County Assessor or Metro. As an example a student can purchase all the data including the GIS layers from Metro for $65.

I hope this information proves useful and helps to alleviate the safety concerns you have raised. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance. Again, questions regarding the removal of a name or a change in the way a name is listed should be directed to Multnomah County Records Management (Kathy Tuneberg) at (503) 988-3375.

With regards, Michael

Michael Mills, Ombudsman
Auditor's Office, City of Portland
1221 SW 4th Ave, Rm 140
Portland, OR 97204-1900
(503) 823-4503

-----Original Message-----
From: Mills, Michael (Ombudsman) []
Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2007 8:43 AM
To: ***
Cc: ***
Subject: RE: Name on Portland maps

Dear ***,

Thank you for your email. As you may or may not know, property ownership is already public information and is currently made available by Multnomah County and in some cases by the City. Our Office recommended that this information be available on PortlandMaps. After reaching an agreement with Multnomah County and the Mayor's Office, the Bureau of Technology Services put the information on the website with certain safeguards in place. Users can only search via property addresses and NOT by names. This prevents someone from finding where a person lives by knowing their name. It was generally believed that by avoiding the ability to search by name, the privacy and safety concerns would be addressed. If the City Council wishes to review the issue further, they have the ability to do so.

In regards to your job and concerns about safety, you can also pursue changes in the way your name appears or under which address you are listed. Multnomah County is ultimately responsible for the ownership information, as the City receives all data from them. If you want to change the way your name is listed, i.e. first name to last initial, you can call the County Records Management at (503) 988-3375. At any time, the County can also change your mailing address (i.e. to a PO Box). In cases of a clear "danger to personal safety", Oregon Revised Statute 192.445 provides for a few cases in which information can be legally blocked (for example: victims of abuse, stalking or those with restraining orders).

Please contact me if you have any further questions or concerns.

With regards, Michael

Michael Mills, Ombudsman
Auditor's Office, City of Portland
1221 SW 4th Ave, Rm 140
Portland, OR 97204-1900
(503) 823-4503

-----Original Message-----
From: ***
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2007 1:32 PM
Subject: Name on Portland maps

I know this is supposed to be a service to the community, but I work in a volatile *** industry where I'm in the legal department. I've *** and because of this I have gotten death threats and had local *** people come to my house. I would really like to have my name taken off this site. My husband is a teacher, and would like the same. If we want people to know where we live, we will tell them. Thank you for your time.

Comments (13)

Any one of dozens of companies will gladly sell you even more information: records searchable by name, credit card information, telephone numbers, all the numbers you call from your cell phone, deeds of trust and liens, even .pdfs of recently recorded documents.

Nobody can hide anymore. It's easy to look up the home address of the judge who sent you to jail, the politician you dislike, or the professor who gave you a bad mark.

Nobody is going to waste time mining portlandmaps for information that is more accessable elsewhere.

I wouldn't be so sure. Some folks like a challenge.

The idea of public records is wonderful - unless it affects one negatively. Then it's a scary, scary thing.

Gee, I guess one can't have it both ways - what a surprise.

Any one of dozens of companies will gladly sell you even more information: records searchable by name, credit card information,

really? name one company that sells name and credit card information.

I think he wrote searchable by name, credit card information....

The real reason they won't let us search by names is that it would be too easy to track down PDC's sweet land deals.

And who knows what other agencies'.


I think he wrote searchable by name, credit card information....

really? name one company that sells searchable name and credit card information.

******really? name one company that sells searchable name and credit card information.******

I really hate to tell you this but all three credit reporting agencies will sell you this information if you can convince them you have a legitimate business use for it. It's even easier to get name search only information from them.

I once worked for a government agency who had a reason to try and track down new addresses for people. (They owed us money.) It cost us 50 cents a search to get new addresses for people who had moved and then notified their credit card companies of their new address. More surprising (and scarier) if we accidentally hit the wrong computer key the system would kick out a full credit report on someone even though we weren't supposed to be accessing that information. I used to wonder if I set myself up as a private detective (just about the easiest thing in the world to do) they would sell me the same access.

Greg C

I really hate to tell you this but all three credit reporting agencies will sell you this information if you can convince them you have a legitimate business use for it.

it's not that simple. i too have firsthand experience. even if you're a credit grantor, you can't simply order up a person's actual credit card information (account number, etc.) without explicit permission. it's more complicated than that.

and, your example is a government agency. we're talking public access, not private or governmental. it's not as easy as "convincing" a reporting agency that you have a "legitimate" use, i don't believe.

Well since the real concern as expressed on this thread is the ability to find names and addresses, I will decline to get into a discussion with you about the availability of credit card information. And since a simple google search will turn up pages and pages of sites that offer name and address information I think we can consider that part of the conversation closed as well.

Greg C

For information, relatively recent changes in federal law prohibit obtaining credit information unless the target individual has actually requested credit from the individual or entity seeking the information (e.g., a car loan or credit card application). Also, new (2007) Oregon legislation allows assessment roll identity information for judges to be redacted on request.

Also, new (2007) Oregon legislation allows assessment roll identity information for judges to be redacted on request.

Could you give a reference to this legislation, please?

Also, if limited to judges only, there would be a fundamental flaw with this approach: Once the reverse directory is assembled by a robot, all one would have to do is search for the redacted addresses (there's what, about 20-25 circuit judges in Multnomah County?). This could be as simple as looking for the word "redacted", or more complex, like looking for "holes" in the address list. Then, through process of elimination, figure out who lives where.

Has the ownership information been pulled or something? I looked up a mysterious property (has no apparent signs of occupancy, lawn does get mowed, yard fenced with security/alarm warnings and I got misc tidbits of information but nothing on ownership.


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