The Difference Between Public Records & Private Information

Do you know how to search public records? When hunting for information about someone, it is important to understand the difference between what is considered public information, and what falls under the realm of private information. In this era of digital information, with plenty of avenues available to explore, the distinction between private and public cannot be overlooked.

In order to operate within the restraints of the law, it is vital to understand what type of information is available legally to the public – and what really needs to be left alone. Technically, there are three categories regarding information about people: public records, public information, and private information.

Public Records

The first element to consider when sifting through public records is the state in which the records are located. Some states have looser constraints than others. Essentially, public records are records kept by the various government agencies within a specific state. These include, but are not limited to, court proceedings, bankruptcy cases, and all types of certificates. For example, organizations such as PeopleFinders work to help clients find items such as marriage, death, and birth records, for the purpose of performing a background check, reconnecting with a loved one, or reviewing any criminal history, for example.

All states are also required to release any records pertaining to sex offenders to the public, in order to preserve the safety of the community and the citizen’s right to access information.

Taken in combination, you can see that quite a bit of information about an individual is available to the public – you just have to know how to search public records.

Public Information

Public information can certainly pertain to the availability of public records, but it does include other types of information as well. A broad definition of public information refers to any information a person or business chooses to release in a forum that the general public has access to.

Information including personal information, photos, and details about work or private life found on résumés, blogs, or social networking sites are all considered to be public information. Of course, once information is placed on the Internet, it is virtually impossible to remove any trace of it.

Thus, while obtaining this type of information is not the same as searching through public records, public information is readily available and can be quite informative.

Private Information

Private information encompasses all details about a person’s life that are protected by law, as long as the subject of the information does not expose the information intentionally. For most people, this includes items like bank account information, or details about personal checking, retirement, and saving accounts.

Political affiliation, marital status, religious beliefs, and nationality are considered to be private information as well. Some people also feel ethnic background, employment history, and race fall into this category. Consequently, learning this type of personal information is a very difficult process, and is even illegal in certain states.

Now that you have a solid understanding of the difference between public and private information, you are ready to search public records and find any information released to the public about an individual. There are plenty of people search websites that are dedicated to preserving our right to obtain certain information, and they often offer tools and resources to help you connect with the information you are looking for. Give one of them a try today – you might be surprised by what you find!