Supreme Court Adopts New Rules on Confidentiality, Electronic Access

Well, it took awhile but the Florida Supreme Court has finally adopted recommendations from 2005 that relate to protecting confidentiality while providing electronic access to court filings:

The first set of amendments is proposed by the Committee on Access to Court Records (Access Committee). Those amendments provide a mechanism to protect confidential information in court records from public view. Enacting a procedure that ensures the confidentiality of a narrow set of court records is a necessary prerequisite to the Court‘s ongoing effort to provide the public with electronic access to court records. While there are enormous benefits to electronic access to court records, the Court has an ongoing concern that we not sacrifice the important goal of protecting those records that are confidential.

The other proposals deal specifically with the issue of sealing and unsealing court records both in criminal and civil cases. The proposals refine the procedures developed in 2007 for sealing and unsealing noncriminal trial court records and specifically include procedures targeted at criminal and appellate court records. In conjunction with these proposals, the Court also considers related amendments to the Rules of Appellate Procedure, which clarify that requests to seal appellate court records are governed by rule 2.420 and provide for review of court orders granting access to judicial branch records and proceedings, in addition to orders denying access.

Meanwhile, the rest of us (perhaps unknowingly) are moving in the opposite direction:

Yet people often dole out all kinds of personal information on the Internet that allows such identifying data to be deduced. Services like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are oceans of personal minutiae — birthday greetings sent and received, school and work gossip, photos of family vacations, and movies watched.

Computer scientists and policy experts say that such seemingly innocuous bits of self-revelation can increasingly be collected and reassembled by computers to help create a picture of a person’s identity, sometimes down to the Social Security number.

“Technology has rendered the conventional definition of personally identifiable information obsolete,” said Maneesha Mithal, associate director of the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy division. “You can find out who an individual is without it.”

Indeed, in the highly creative and compelling new Syfy series Caprica, a grieving father did just that — recreated and animated an avatar of his dead teenage daughter by collecting and synthesizing the data detritus of his daughter’s online life.

All I know is my online avatar will be eating at Loggia and heading out for a vigorous early afternoon windsurfing session, but don’t worry — you can track my every move on foursquare!