Monday, September 5, 2016

Freedom of Information Act and TX Public Information Act

Every wonder where someone lives?  Every wonder what your neighbor's home value is?  Every wonder someone's criminal history or Political voting history is?  The Internet has many database sources and today it is easier than ever to find out just about anything about anyone.  

United States Federal Government is bound by the 1966 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  Texas is bound by the Public Information Act which is a set of laws that ensures the public has access to information held by the government.  

As the Internet has matured and government has become more technological, many items are readily avalaible on government websites.  Things like home values and checking voter registration is easily found by simple name search.  Some information requires a formal records requests before they are handed out.  Other data items like voting history require searching thru huge Excel files to extract the data.  Criminal history searches usually requires a birthdate, so you may need to first get that from the voter history file.   Sometimes it's not an easy search, with so many common names. I'm sure there will be a time where everything is easily found online, but for now it is generally located in fragmented databases spread out by our local city, state, county and federal websites.

Here are a few key sites for my location in central Texas.

Travis County
Texas State

Williamson County
Hays County

Other Search sites