Say NO to our Backyard photos on the County website

Posted in the Anacortes Forum

n mcclain

Anacortes, WA

#1 Nov 22, 2010
NOVEMBER 23, 2010
LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
SAY NO TO OUR BACKYARD PHOTOS ON THE COUNTY WEBSITE
I must write again. We need action from our County officials immediately. Mr. Mattens “vowed to improve technology” in the Assessor’s Office when he took office in 2006. He wanted to make our County Website ( Islandcounty.net ) much more robust. His new creation makes our properties much more “public” and user friendly. Unfortunately, this new website is only beneficial to the assessor office employees, and the real estate community (who, naturally, love it!)
Our newly developed county website shows pictures of the front, sides, and back of all of our homes. Some pictures are several years old, but as the assessor/appraisers make their way around the island, they upload new photos of YOUR homes every day. You can see this schedule online, as well.
These pictures show every window, door, and staircase in your backyards. They clearly show all shrubs and sheds in your backyards, and every place for a vandal to hide. This is not safe.
If you want to look at your home, or any Island County home, you only need the owner’s last name, or the street name. Sadly, very simple. The website is: Islandcounty.net , click on "Island County Property Data" in the right hand column, then click "agree". You can then choose how to view the information (either owner name, street name, etc). When the information on the chosen home pops up, click on "expand all" in the upper right hand corner, and then scroll down to your home pictures and diagrams.

I wrote a letter to the County asking them to take off the photos that are not “street view” shots, but the two people who wrote back, Mr. Mattens and Ms. Homola said they would be gone until after the holidays. I have not heard back from Sheriff Brown. Interestingly, Sheriff Brown’s, and Mr. Mattens, back-of-house pictures are not posted on the county website.
Every person I have spoken with about this situation is appalled. I have searched many County websites around Washington State, and many other States, and no other county has this situation. Most counties post street view pictures only, some do not even do that, and no other websites that I reviewed make it available for anyone to search by last name. That is totally intrusive.
The County must be asked to takes these pictures off our website, and use the pictures for the purpose they were taken….for assessment/tax purposes only. This should be between the homeowner and the assessor ONLY. NOT for public viewing. Ms. Engles, our new County Assessor, should hear about this, from all of us, after January 1, 2011.
N. McClain
Clinton

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