A Step Towards Privacy or an Obstacle to Transparency?

California State Capitol Building
In a groundbreaking move, the state of California has decided to remove dates of birth from court records based on the decision of All of Us or None – Riverside Chapter vs. W. Samuel Hamrick, Clerk case. This decision has garnered mixed reactions from various stakeholders, with some seeing it as a positive step towards individual privacy while others view it as a potential barrier to public transparency. Let’s dive into the motivations behind this decision and the implications it might have.

Why Remove Date of Birth?

1. Identity Protection: One of the primary reasons behind this decision is the increasing concern over identity theft. Dates of birth, along with other personal details, can be a goldmine for malicious individuals trying to commit fraud. By removing this information from court records, the state aims to make it harder for identity thieves to gather complete profiles on potential victims.

2. Respect for Privacy: As our lives become more digital, there’s a growing call for institutions to respect personal data and privacy. Dates of birth can be considered sensitive personal information, and its unnecessary disclosure might be seen as an invasion of personal space, especially if the individual is not a public figure.

The Flip Side: Concerns Raised

1. Transparency in Journalism: For journalists, access to detailed court records, including dates of birth, can be essential in accurately identifying individuals. There are often multiple individuals with the same name, and the date of birth can be a distinguishing factor. By removing this detail, there might be challenges in ensuring that the right person is being referred to, especially in stories that are in the public’s interest.

2. Background Checks: Employers, landlords, and various other entities rely on background checks to verify the histories of potential employees, tenants, or partners. Without a date of birth, verifying someone’s past can become more complicated and may lead to potential mistakes.

3. Genealogical Research: For those tracing their family trees, court records serve as valuable resources. Removing dates of birth can make it more challenging to identify and trace specific ancestors, potentially hindering genealogical research.

Without a date of birth, verifying someone’s past can become more complicated and may lead to potential mistakes.

Finding a Balance

The decision to remove dates of birth from court records is a testament to the evolving nature of data privacy and protection in the digital age. California, known for its progressive data protection measures, like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), is once again at the forefront of this movement.

However, as with any significant policy change, it’s essential to strike a balance. While the protection of personal data is paramount, it’s also necessary to ensure that the public’s right to information isn’t unduly hindered.


The move to remove dates of birth from California’s court records shines a spotlight on the constant tug-of-war between individual privacy and public transparency. As other states and countries observe California’s experiment, it will be crucial to monitor the long-term implications of this decision. Whether or not this becomes a trend remains to be seen, but it undeniably sparks an essential conversation about how much of our personal data should be available to the public.

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Senate Bill 647
Senate Bill 1262
This bill would require publicly accessible electronic indexes of defendants in criminal cases to permit searches and filtering of results based on a defendant’s driver’s license number or date of birth, or both.
Senate Bill 1262 Veto