Pennsylvania’s new Clean Slate Law and what this means for data privacy

Because of a law passed last year, the Clean Slate Law, millions of Pennsylvania residents’ old and nonviolent criminal records are beginning to be automatically sealed, causing the data to be wiped from public view. By enacting this legal provision, almost half of the cases in the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Court’s databases will be sealed, allowing only FBI background checking to continue to view the entirety of the records on the system.

Automatic criminal record sealing goes into effect in Pennsylvania

Now this isn’t new to us, we’ve noticed that many criminal cases are being removed from public view, and that which is left available to non governmental agencies is being redacted. This is partially in an effort to protect PII. This means that the bulk of a record may be available to view but may not include the full date of birth, for example.

This new law also involves an interesting and complex problem for those working with their court databases – including their own IT staff! Depending on the age of the record there may be wildly different structures for how data was recorded. Offense codes can vary from one jurisdiction to another, for instance; some courts collect fingerprint data and others don’t and some even only have paper records at all (yikes!).

These IT challenges are likely to increase country-wide as many groups in many other states are campaigning for automatic record sealing and redaction laws, opening up more opportunities for employment, education and housing for millions. We will be keeping our eyes peeled for the security solutions that may come from solving consolidation problems like this!