Then again

W. Virginia assessor fights effort to put tax maps online:

Seneca’s conflict with a county tax assessor over Internet publication of public records reflects some of the problems that society will face as more government information transitions from static print into digital formats. Seneca’s efforts to integrate the information into a more cohesive database that would provide significant value to citizens of West Virginia have been assaulted every step of the way by anachronistic laws and misguided government officials. It is a sad day when a company attempting to provide a public service at its own expense is barred from doing so by outdated and legally dubious state laws.

Another way of looking at this is that a private company has cheaply found a way to become a monopoly provider (assuming that that state presently folds its own operation) for something previously available to the public. They’re using the public data to leverage their own proprietary stuff, and will ultimately be able to charge whatever the market will bear.

Of course, I also have mixed feelings about things like property-tax records being ubiquitously searchable; on the one hand there are a lot of public uses, especially in keeping assessors accurate and honest, but on the other it sure makes it easy to look for targets.


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