Thanks to the Internet, many records and legal documents are now available to search and review online, whether they are marriage records, birth records, divorce records, and even property records. Although it can be convenient to have access to this information at any time, in reality the online publication of this sensitive information jeopardizes an individual’s security and privacy. It is critical for people to take proactive steps to minimize or better control the kind of public information that’s available online, for the privacy and safety of family members and property.

One way people have become more vulnerable is through the online publication of county appraisal records for property ownership. Although individuals cannot request the removal of all their public records online, property owners can request that their name be removed from online appraisal records.

Harris County offers online appraisal district records. These records clearly indicate the full address, recent appraisal value, and other key pieces of information regarding the owner’s property and home details. By hiding the property owner name on appraisal records, property owners gain more security and privacy.

Security is a growing concern for individuals and families, especially if they are public figures like professional athletes, wealthy business owners, or government officials. People with harmful intentions can easily look up property addresses by owner through these appraisal district websites, so removing your name is crucial to maximize privacy. Recently, former Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub encountered two trespassers on his private residence, threatening the security of himself and his young family. Online privacy helps deter criminals who might vandalize or steal your property or cause harm to you or your loved ones.

In addition, property owners should remove their names from online appraisal district websites to make it harder for individuals or businesses to look up a home’s appraisal value. This is beneficial when a homeowner wants to keep financial information, such as a home’s value, private from others such as creditors, attorneys or other interested parties. Harris County makes it easy for property owners to remove their name from online searchable records, instead listing owners as “Current Owner.” Harris County’s online form is available here to complete the request.

However, for individuals living in other Houston-area counties, such as Fort Bend or Waller County, applicants must qualify for online confidentiality based on their profession or relation to a public servant. For example, a current or former peace officer, their spouse and children would all meet the qualification for online confidentiality on appraisal district websites. This Confidentiality Request Form, and the corresponding qualifications, can be found here.

It’s important to keep your sensitive information safe from online predators and others that might seek to harm you or steal your property. Have questions? Let us know!