The judicial branch will be removing identifying information from some 40,000 court cases in order to comply with a 2011 law that protects personal data.
That decision came from the Corte Suprema de Justicia, which endorsed a project put forth by the judiciary’s Comisión de Protección de Datos Personales.
The goal is to remove any information that may cause a person to be subjected to discrimination or exclusion. That includes personal data like name and cédula number as well as race, health, sexual life, sexual orientation, political opinions, religious, spiritual or philosophical convictions, socioeconomic conditions, biometric or genetic data, home address, financial information, photograph, telephone numbers and similar, said the court, as quoted in a summary by the Poder Judicial.
Court files have long been closed to all except lawyers and those involved in the individual cases. Recently court workers began eliminating names from decisions that were posted on the Poder Judicial Web site. They said they were doing so to comply with the new law. Although the case files were closed, in the past summaries of court decisions were available and used extensively by credit agencies, employers and private investigators. The court action implies that no longer will the names of persons convicted of crimes and civil lapses be available.
The Poder Judicial said that the first stages of this project would take seven months and cost 18.3 million colons, about $37,000. A company will be hired to do the work.
Left unsaid is how this policy will be put into practice at the time criminal suspects are arrested or placed on trial. Also uncertain is how the courts will treat the records of credit agencies which maintain a lot of the data that is being eliminated in the judicial files. Most of the data comes from public records, such as lists of telephone numbers and filing at the Registro Nacional.
Eventually the Poder Judicial will have to put some 450,000 older court cases on the Internet to see if any of the participants want to have their names removed, the agency said.
Public access to the judicial process is generally considered a major way to avoid corruption. In other countries, the emphasis has been opposite to what is taking place here. For example, convicted sex criminals have to register themselves in some places, and these records are open to the public.