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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Thursday, November 22, 2007

PortlandMaps pulls Washington, Clackamas County names

Here's a local story that even the Thanksgiving holiday can't keep down: the City of Portland's decision to include property owners' names and addresses along with maps and aerial photos of their properties on the city's PortlandMaps site. Yesterday we noted that at least one local judge is not happy to have his or her name and home address connected on the internet. Today a couple of readers have written in to note that information that was there earlier in the week has now disappeared.

It turns out that when PortlandMaps started including owners' names, it did so not only for addresses within the Portland city limits, but also for some properties in neighboring communities as well. Now folks in Washington and Clackamas Counties have complained, and Portland has apparently taken all the names down for property within those counties, leaving only Multnomah County property owners' names posted along with their properties. Again, a reader sends along a portion of an e-mail exchange that explains this latest development:

From: "Mills, Michael (Ombudsman)"
To: *****
Subject: RE: Clackamas and Washington Counties : privacy invasion
Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2007 15:41:18 -0800

Dear ***:

Here is an update on your inquiry. The information for property owners outside of Multnomah County has been removed from Portlandmaps.com. After speaking with officials from both Washington and Clackamas Counties, they expressed to me their desire not to have the names shown on Portlandmaps.com. Since the counties are the respective custodians of these public records, the City has honored their request. Should either of the counties change their policy and allow the names to be displayed, the City of Portland would likely make them accessible. Again, the City allows people to search via property address only and NOT by name. Under ORS 192, all of these are public records but at this time there is no requirement to make them available on the internet.

Thank you, 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: Friday, November 16, 2007 8:56 AM
To: *****
Subject: RE: Clackamas and Washington Counties : privacy invasion

p.s. - My apologies. I did make a mistake in my first response. The names are NOT currently available on the websites of the three counties as I wrote. The names have been available only if one subscribes to Multnomah County's online Catbird service. (There are some counties, like Deschutes, that provide the information on their websites, and they even allow one to search by name.) I am sorry about the this error.

Best, Michael

here is an example of an Oregon County where you can search by name, something we decided not to offer here.

DIAL system in Deschutes Co.


-----Original Message-----
From: Mills, Michael (Ombudsman)
Sent: Friday, November 16, 2007 8:33 AM
To: *****
Subject: RE: Clackamas and Washington Counties : privacy invasion

Thank you ***.

You raise a good point. There are valid reasons on both sides of this question which makes the decision a particularly difficult one to find the right balance. While I have made my recommendation based on what I thought was in the public's best interest, further review may result in a different conclusion. I will let you know the results.

Thank you again for your thoughtful comments.


-----Original Message-----
From: *****
Sent: Friday, November 16, 2007 8:16 AM
To: Mills, Michael (Ombudsman)
Subject: RE: Clackamas and Washington Counties : privacy invasion

thank you for your reply. However, I do not think that this is in the best interests of the general public. My take on it is if you want info on a certain property, go pay for it. This makes it too easy for not so honest folks to access a lot of information without moving off their couch.

"Mills, Michael (Ombudsman)" wrote:

Dear ***,

Thank you for your email. I would first like to provide some background to the issue concerning Portlandmaps.

Under Oregon State law, property ownership is public information (ORS 192). The records of names and addresses are available to those calling into county offices, on their websites and occasionally information is provided by the city. As the information is already publicly available, our office recommended to include names to the City's Bureau of Technology Services. After considerable review, Technology Services accepted the recommendation and made the change. Out of concern for personal safety, the decision was made to allow a search by property address only and NOT by name. 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.

That explanation aside, I have shared your particular concern with the Bureau of Technology Services who are reviewing your concerns and request further. I will let you know the results.

Thank you, Michael


-----Original Message-----
From: *****
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2007 5:21 AM
To: Ombudsman@ci.portland.or.us
Subject: privacy invasion

hey! get our names off our property. We have our phone number unlisted for obvious reasons and this private info being shared on Portland Maps AND WE LIVE IN LAKE OSWEGO is an invasion of privacy not to mention it leaves all of us open for all sorts of fraud and possible identity theft.

I expect a prompt reply or you will be hearing from our lawyer. This is totally unacceptable.

If I am not mistaken, parts of Portland are in Washington and Clackamas Counties. But if I'm reading these e-mails correctly, property owners' names in those parts of Portland are no longer available on PortlandMaps, because those two counties don't want them there.

Well, what about Multnomah County? Does Multnomah County want them there? Perhaps it's time for concerned folks to start calling and e-mailing Ted Wheeler. But hey, please wait 'til Monday.

Comments (12)

start calling and e-mailing Ted Wheeler

If only we could figure out where he lives . . . .

He he! Start at Sten's house and work your way out from there.

I liked being able to get the information in Clackamas County. Too bad it is gone now. Privacy is really important, but I never thought of where I live as private information. I walk out the front door every day, and I had the deed recorded in the public records.

Thanks Jack! If it weren't for you and your blog a lot of things would not get noticed. Let alone fixed!

Charles Moose showed us by example that it shouldn't matter if people know where you live or not. But that was then, Moose is gone, this is now, and we are still here. For the rest of us, if Mult Cty judges can get the aforementioned hint from their Wa Cty and Clack Cty brethrin we can fully cloak the entire metro, thus causing targeted junk mail volume to decrease after awhile.

No need to call or email unless you want. I'm already looking into this. Have a fine weekend, everybody. Ted. (Side note: if you are out shopping this weekend keep in mind that your credit card information may get sold on a regular basis depending upon which financial institution you use...including your address)

Seems to me that people don't often realize what's already publicly available. For example, your mailing address, party registration, and birthdate is available at County Elections offices statewide. At least for registered voters.

Try it. Call up County Elections, give 'em your name and address, and ask for the birthday on file. No problem.

start calling and e-mailing Ted Wheeler

If only we could figure out where he lives . . . .

As you might guess, Ted Wheeler lives in Portland Chardonnay and Brie territory, just off Vista in Portland's swanky west hills, in a $2 million + house.

Inherited money is so convenient. It allows you to pretend that all the things you support help the little person.

Forget the home address/searchable name angle. Why is the City of Portland spending its tax dollars to republish public records for which it is not the custodian?

Multnomah County cannot stop the City of Portland from making their own request for information, or place conditions on it (other than the decision to grant or deny a waiver of the cost to prepare and deliver the data). A taxpayer in the city can however object to the expenditure for republication. The dynamics of the two inquiries are radically different. If Ted uses some arbitrary heavy hand it will be as nonsensical as using Pearl District Urban Renewal Dollars for public education costs unrelated to the educational needs associated with the residents of that district.

(At least when a title company prepares a title report they offer, for a fee, the assurance that it is accurate. Does Portland attest that their data is accurate enough to rely upon for private parties that wish to exchange property? Could they be sued if someone does believe that it is accurate and it is not?)

Illustration: Suppose our City Auditor decides to use his new PSU-Archive center as a data processing center to digitize all the Multnomah County court records and make them available on the Internet. The cost would be substantially higher, but the issue -- the boundary of what a city may or may not do with taxpayer dollars -- would be remarkably similar.

Ted could, with the cooperation of the Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission and ten city taxpayers, reject the delivery of any property tax dollars to the city that are used to republish county public records.

The wisdom or folly of posting home addresses together with names need not even arise to address this matter.

C&B - I hate Chardonnay, brie is bad for the gut, and I'll eat both every day for a year if my house is worth "$2+ million." But hey, if you want to make me a deal, I'm listening...As for the "inherited money," you are making my parents a little nervous...they are both alive and well and will hopefully be so for many, many years.

pdxnag should note that all the information that is on Portlandmaps (including owner's names and addresses) was already on the site and accessible to city employees. It is used regularly by planning and building departments, among others, for permits, planning, and other uses. All the effort required to "republish" this info was to make a programming change that allowed the public to access the owner info, as well as the rest of the info that they already had access to. I doubt the cost was very much.

The city is the custodian of the CDs which they obtained from the county, no less so than were they to receive an e-mail from Ted. It is just a subset of "mission critical" data that is part of the in-house project. (Not too much different, justification wise, than OJIN.)

Is it possible to claim that the city is not now "a" custodian of such data, in precisely the form it had been obtained from the county, for purposes of a public records request made upon the city?

If the city makes a practice of republishing such data . . . on the web . . . do they not give up one argument to refuse to deliver copies of CDs they got from the county?

I am sure that the City Auditor could construe that the City's occasional need to look up court data on OJIN would be sufficient reason to obtain all the court case data for all Portland residents or related to property in Portland (liens on property are automatic for any money judgment against a person, obtained anywhere in the state) and use it for internal purposes . . . and perhaps even offer it on the web for free.

If you were to draw a line where might it be?

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