Editor’s note: Tomorrow in Inman News, we’ll publish the first of a three-part series on privacy and real estate. Find out what the Patriot Act means for your business, what other companies in the industry are doing about privacy and how to protect yourself and your business.

The average real estate transaction involves mounds of personal data: tax records, employment history, credit reports, marital status, financial records, current and past residence addresses, rent receipts and criminal records. Then there is school data, crime data, property listing data, property record data, real estate license data and much, much more, all of which lays the foundation of the home search, loan hunt and number crunching that goes into the average home sale.

Making this data available to private parties, the government and the public makes for a smoother home sale, but it also means our personal privacy is inherently being invaded by the act of spreading it around.

In this series, our Inman News team looks into the sprawling issue of privacy: what the government is doing, what private firms are doing and what consumers can do to protect themselves.

Part 1 looks at the privacy implications that arise when counties put extensive public record data online. Some counties enable 24/7 access to real estate and tax data that can be searched by property owner name. Some even include detailed information like neighborhood maps and sketches of individual properties. The freeing of property data from Realtor MLSs and county office closets benefits consumers, but it also opens a debate on where to draw the line between public data and personal privacy.

In Part 2, we explored what real estate companies are doing to comply with various federal and state privacy laws. Is the industry doing enough to protect consumers? What standards do real estate professionals apply when protecting their client’s personal data? Do-Not-Call, Do-Not-Email and new security standards are just the beginning of the compliance laundry list.

In Part 3, we cracked open the Patriot Act, the controversial legislation passed shortly after 9/11 as a way to track terrorists in the U.S. Money-laundering compliance programs and terrorist lists are two aspects of the Act that pertain to real estate. But there’s still confusion and the government has yet to implement some of the rules.

The Internet and world events have changed how we perceive and regulate privacy. Now real estate businesses must figure out the best form of protection for themselves and for clients.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to newsroom@inman.com.

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