Public opinions on the legal framework of access to online digitalization of crime data

Sarah Esther Lageson
Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University

Key Findings

  • The lack of a clear framework surrounding public access to criminal data is limits an individual’s personal view on punishment.
  • Experience with crime, either as a victim or perpetrator, also impacts an individual’s opinion on public access to crime data online.


In the article, “Crime Data, the Internet, and Free Speech: An Evolving Legal Consciousness, Lageson examines how laws should govern criminal data on the Internet. Currently, crime data is legally collected and posted on independent sites through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and through records already made public. There is no clear legal framework for reproduction of these records. This data can potentially harm individual’s reentering society after serving completing their prison sentences. To conduct her study, Lageson collected data from interviews with 32 online publishers of crime data and 27 individuals seeking expungement of their criminal records. She asked each group to give their take on the current system, how the law is applied, and opinions on what the law should be. Lageson found that the lack of clear legal guidelines allowed participants in both groups to use their personal viewpoints on punishment to build their own ideas around how the law should look and be conducted about online crime data. Lageson also found that regardless of what side of the debate on access to digitized crime data participants are on, their opinion is shaped by their experience with crime, as a perpetrator or victim.

View Full Research