Amid concerns of privacy breaches, online access to ND court records pulled without warning

Local News

UPDATE: North Dakota’s online court database is no longer as transparent as it was earlier in the day Tuesday.

KX News has been following a major change to the North Dakota Court System website.

For a little over a week, every North Dakotan has had online access to documents related to any criminal court case, past or present. Some of those records included sensitive material, like gruesome details and images related to some of the state’s most notorious crimes.

Some documents even held personal details, like social security numbers and bank information.

As of 5:30 p.m., those records are no longer accessible online.

A State Court Administrator says more documents than expected don’t comply with state privacy rules.

State’s Attorney Roza Larson also expressed concern over the change. “The ideology behind it might be a good thing, giving access to court records,” said Larson, “but I don’t think they really thought through what is contained within those documents.”

ORIGINAL: Last week, the State Supreme Court made public documents much easier to access, but now some are worried private information will be exposed.

We sat down with the Ward County State’s Attorney to see how the new change could affect you.

“The ideology behind it might be a good thing, giving access to court records, but I don’t think they really thought through what is contained within those documents,” said Roza Larson, Ward County State Attorney.

In the past, anyone could go to the courthouse and request documents that were related to a case, but before the papers were handed over, sensitive information was redacted. Now those documents are just a few clicks away on NDCourts.gov.

Larson said, “I believe the change was more so to give remote access and better access for someone who is at home and doesn’t have easy access and ability to come to the court.”

There’s information that won’t be available for the public to see like domestic violence or sexual assault cases, but divorce records and crime scene photos are fair game.

“There are photos of our victims that are actually gruesome and very private, and in some other cases you’ve got a sexual assault case or something like that where there are photos that are entered that are very private,” said Larson.

We spoke to a clerk of court who said if you find any of your personal information such as your social security number, you can visit your local courthouse to get the information removed.

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