From Roy Whiteley, founder, Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation:
Subject: Privacy Concerns with Maryland Public Documents
As part of the Maryland property tax assessment appeals process, the taxpayer might choose to research public land records to obtain comparable data. The land records are in the public domain available without any access restrictions at the courthouses of the 24 Maryland jurisdictions. They are also available on the Internet. The Internet website, MDLandRec.net says this is a “Digital Image Retrieval System for Land Records in Maryland. A Joint Service of the Maryland Judiciary and the Maryland State Archives. The Maryland Judiciary, the 24 elected Court Clerks of Maryland and the Maryland Archives have joined in partnership to provide up to date access to all verified land record instruments in Maryland. This service is currently being provided at no charge to individuals who apply for a user name and password. Users are encouraged to provide feedback and inform the Maryland State Archives of any problems encountered.”
On the surface, this preamble seems to provide the same access and privacy one might find by visiting any courthouse but with the added convenience of obtaining information from the comfort of one’s home. However, to establish an account by completing a user name and password, the taxpayer is first faced with the following note: “PLEASE NOTE: Your browser must accept cookies to use this system. This website also uses pop-up windows. If you are using software to block pop-up windows, you must include this site in your list of permitted websites in order to access all features.” This is a very disturbing, unacceptable requirement subjecting the taxpayer, whose taxpayer dollars support this site, to unnecessary invasive procedures. It is not information sought or required at any courthouse and does not appear to be necessary for the State to obtain through such intrusive means.
Microsoft, the developer of the Windows computer operating system, included within the operating system the ability to block pop-up windows and the ability to disable “cookies,” if desired. Cookies are an intrusive vehicle that allows any computer access to your computer and any of its personal information. The pop-up windows are an annoying intrusion of unwanted advertisements. Both are an invasion of privacy which we abhor. We do not allow either on our computer and we quickly exit any website that requires either in order to use their site.
The land records of Maryland are public records. They should be made available to any taxpaying user with the same conditions as exist in an on-site courthouse visit. We see absolutely no need to allow the State access to our computer and any of its contents to obtain taxpayer paid for records and means of obtaining them whether it is by physical inspection at a courthouse or via the Internet.
We request that this invasion of privacy, such as is being questioned ad infinitum today, cease and desist immediately. We request that you take legislative action, if necessary, to correct this situation and protect our privacy.
Roy Whiteley, Founder.