Privacy Policy

Below are some frequently asked questions about PlainSite and information privacy.

Where did you find data about me?

Information on PlainSite comes two main sources: visitors to the site, and public databases. When you browse any web site, including PlainSite, your web browser transmits information about your IP address and/or DNS hostname (which refers to the computer you are using) so that web servers know where to send the web pages being requested.

The content on our web pages generally comes from a variety of government databases that contain public information, cross-referenced with a private database of information about legal entities maintained by PlainSite's owner and operator, Think Computer Corporation. We do not purchase information of any kind for PlainSite from private entities, nor do we sell information about our users to others.

Specifically, PlainSite contains information from the United States court system's PACER database, various IRS, FEC, GPO and USPTO databases, information provided by various state agencies and courts, and ThinkLink.

Can you remove information about me?

To the extent that information is publicly available and provided by the government, we do not remove (e.g. delete) data from PlainSite without a court order. Even if we did remove information, it would still be freely available on a number of other web sites that provide open access to legal information that we have no control over. Here is what we can do:

  • Search engine suppression. We do occasionally suppress information from being indexed by search engines by adding specific web pages and documents to our search engine suppression list.
  • Court order compliance. If information has been sealed or expunged by the government since the time when we first accessed the data, and a court order is provided, we are glad to delete information according to the terms of the order.
  • Account number redaction. We will redact Social Security Numbers and other pieces of sensitive information published by the government in error upon request.
  • Name abbreviation. In some cases where we feel that there is a strong public interest in keeping information available, but a particular person's privacy interests are also strongly compromised, we will on rare occasion modify names contained in public documents and replace them only with initials to avoid the indexing of the names by search engines.

We cannot guarantee any particular action for any particular record ahead of time.

While we at one point permitted requests for information removal via e-mail, we now ask that you use our web-based, easy-to-use Contact Us Form to get in touch with us about an issue you may have with information on PlainSite. Using the form helps streamline the process, as we typically receive over 10 requests per day.

If a piece of public information is harming you or someone you know, the best course of action is to attempt to have it sealed or expunged by the government agency publishing the information first, and then to get in touch with us.

How do you decide which cases to act on in which manner?

We weigh a number of factors when considering what to do about public information's availability on-line. Though there is no overarching "right to privacy" in the United States, we still take privacy very seriously, and understand that information access can affect job prospects, family life, and other considerations. However, we also have to balance the way in which hiding information affects others.

When evaluating a given request, the following factors cause us to generally keep information accessible to the public:

  • Frequent public access. Many PlainSite records have a "hit" counter that measures the number of access attempts logged. If a record has roughly 100 or more hits, we interpret that measure as a sign of strong public interest, which means the information should be kept available. This is one of the most important factors we look at.
  • Involvement of government. Federal, state and local government affects all of us. If a given record involves a government official or agency, it's likely that others will want to know.
  • Large amounts of money. Any case involving $5,000 USD or more is generally above the threshold of a "small claims" case and generally significant, but even many small claims cases involving more than $1,000 USD are of interest to the public.
  • Serious criminal charges. Cases that involve serious crimes, but do not jeopardize the safety of any individual, are of particular interest to the public.
  • Recent and ongoing matters. With some exceptions related to court precedent (see below), records pertaining to matters before the government that have been recently filed (within five years) or are ongoing are generally of more interest to the public than older matters.
  • Precedential cases. The court system works on the basis of stare decisis, which is Latin for "to stand by things decided." Decisions in one case almost always reference decisions made in prior cases. Records from frequently-cited cases are therefore of particular public interest. Cases that have been appealed even once are generally considered to be an especially important part of the body of case law, and we do not suppress these cases as a rule.
  • Novel issues of law. A case pertaining to a new issue, such as international law or technology law, is generally of interest to the public.
  • Major societal issues. A case pertaining to incoming inequality, student loan debt or current events would generally be of interest to the public.
  • Business and intellectual property issues. While we value individual privacy, business activity before courts and government agencies almost always belongs in the public domain.
  • Unusual filing activity. While we might typically suppress individual bankruptcy cases, an individual who has filed for bankruptcy ten times should not enjoy the protection of information suppression.

When evaluating a given request, the following factors cause us to generally keep information hidden from search engines, and outweigh all of the above factors:

  • Individual uncontested bankruptcy cases. The bankruptcy process is intended to help people start anew, and we try to honor requests to suppress bankruptcy information if it is getting in the way.
  • Car crashes. Lawsuits involving vehicles tend to involve medical information and cause embarrassment. Car crashes are sadly a fact of life for people of all backgrounds.
  • Family matters. We tend to think that with rare exceptions, divorces, custody battles and other family disputes should not be broadcast.
  • Matters involving minors. We try to limit the exposure of minors in government filings.

We do not take the following factors into consideration at all:

  • Personal attributes. We're not interested in your race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, and will disregard any information you provide us along these lines.
  • Health. We do not give preferential treatment to individuals suffering from any particular condition or disease.
  • Profit motive. We do not treat non-profit organizations and their affiliates any differently than for-profit organizations.
Finally, although we try to redact Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, passport numbers, and other unique identifiers from documents where possible, we generally do not find the presence of such information to necessarily justify any other action in a given case.

Why is this policy in place?

One of the goals of PlainSite is to reveal the way that average citizens are harmed by the activities of lobbyists and corporations. We also aim to shed light on the way that the government interacts with the general public. Much of this activity takes place through the legal system, and through the courts in particular. We cannot honor all requests to hide public information because doing so would jeopardize the effectiveness of PlainSite as a transparency tool and defeat the point of making the information public in the first place.

What do you use my web browser information and other information that I provide for?

The information we collect from you may be used in one of the following ways:

  • To personalize your experience. Your information helps us to better respond to your individual needs.
  • To improve our website. (we continually strive to improve our website offerings based on the information and feedback we receive from you)
  • To improve customer service. (your information helps us to more effectively respond to your customer service requests and support needs)
  • To process transactions. We charge fees for PlainSite Pro Se and PlainSite Pro, which means we need to collect payment information.

Your information, whether public or private, will not be sold, exchanged, transferred, or given to any other company for any reason whatsoever, without your consent, other than for the express purpose of delivering the purchased product or service requested or to send periodic e-mails.

The e-mail address you provide for order processing, will only be used to send you information and updates pertaining to your order.

What do you use my web browser information and other information that I provide for?

We implement a variety of security measures to maintain the safety of your personal information when you place an order or enter, submit, or access your personal information. We offer the use of a secure server. All supplied sensitive/credit information is transmitted via Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology and then encrypted into our Payment gateway providers database only to be accessible by those authorized with special access rights to such systems, and are required to keep the information confidential.

After a transaction, your private information (credit cards, social security numbers, financials, etc.) will be kept on file in order to comply with federal and state laws and permit recurring billing as necessary.

Do you use cookies?

Yes. Cookies are small files that a site or its service provider transfers to your computers hard drive through your Web browser (if you allow) that enables the sites or service providers systems to recognize your browser and capture and remember certain information. We use cookies to understand and save your preferences for future visits.

Do you disclose any information to outside parties?

We do not sell, trade, or otherwise transfer to outside parties your personally identifiable information. This does not include trusted third parties who assist us in operating our website, conducting our business, or servicing you, so long as those parties agree to keep this information confidential. We may also release your information when we believe release is appropriate to comply with the law, enforce our site policies, or protect ours or others rights, property, or safety. However, non-personally identifiable visitor information may be provided to other parties for marketing, advertising, or other uses.

What about California Online Privacy Protection Act compliance?

Because we value your privacy we have taken the necessary precautions to be in compliance with the California Online Privacy Protection Act. We therefore will not distribute your personal information to outside parties without your consent.

As part of the California Online Privacy Protection Act, all users of our site may make any changes to their information at anytime by logging into their control panel and going to the "My Account" page.

Do you require my consent?

By using our site, you consent to this privacy policy. Courts generally favor public access to public information including court records. Therefore, we do not require your consent to publish public information about you or make changes to PlainSite.

When was this policy last updated?

If we decide to change our privacy policy, we will post those changes on this page, and/or update the Privacy Policy modification date below.

This policy was last modified on March 28, 2014.

How can I contact you?

If there are any questions regarding this privacy policy, please contact us.

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