Access Rules

by   |  05.29.09  |  Open Government, Supplemental Information

By Charles Marler

Privacy Act of 1974

1. Protects U.S. citizens from release of personal information in federal agency data banks without prior written consent.
2. Eleven exceptions to non-disclosure. Agency rules are found in Federal Register.

Freedom of Information Act of 1966

1. Guarantees access to records of federal agencies.
2. Nine exceptions to guaranteed access approved by Congress and have been tested in courts.

Government in the Sunshine Act of 1977

1. Guarantees federal agencies will conduct public meetings.
2. Congress made 10 exemptions to open meetings of federal agencies.
3. Chair of NSTB noted Aug. 21, 2000, that the meeting about TWA 800 findings was a “Sunshine meeting.”

Justice and Delinquency Act of 1974

1. Created uniform safeguards for records about juvenile in federal court, including sealing of record of completed proceeding.
2. If juvenile is tried as an adult, exceptions are made to non-disclosure of name or photo.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974

1. Abbreviated to FERPA and also referred to as the Buckeley Amendment.
2. Protects college students from release of their educational records without their consent.
3. Exceptions for directory materials, as defined within federal rules by each university.
4. See page 11 in the 2003-04 ACU Catalog.
5. Owasso (2002) says in-class grading OK with FERPA.
6. Gonzaga (2002) says disclosure of private information about students to third parties during teacher certification process does not open private universities to civil liability.

Federal Wiretap Statute18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(d)

1. Requires that only one party to the recording of a wire or oral conversation needs to give consent.
2. Wiretapping with intent to commit a criminal or tortuous act is exempt from protection.

Privacy Protection Act of 1980

1. Zurcher v. Stanford Daily gave police officials the right to seize journalists’ work products in the premises of innocent third parties, e.g., newsrooms.
2. Congress statutorily corrected Zurcher by limiting seizure of journalists’ work products
3. Texas exercised its right, as have other states, and immunized journalists from work product searches.

Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986

1. Made it a crime to intentionally intercept or divulge the contents of any wire, oral or electronic communication.
2. Exempt are interception of radio broadcasts, including police and fire communications, amateur and citizen band radios, and marine aeronautical communication.

Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991

1. Designed to shield consumers from unwanted telemarketing , junk faxes, pre-recorded messages and autodialers.
2. Telemarketers and clients are financially responsible.
3. “Prior business relationships” exempt; consumer complaint severs “prior business relationship.”

Medical Records

1. Medical Information Bureau Web site is Click on “Consumer Information” to see how to get a copy of your report. Cost of a report is $8.50.
2. Medical privacy protections in Texas are available at the Attorney General’s Web site:
3. Bush administration has just announced changes in federal medical privacy laws, including exclusion of any requirement for prior written consent to share medical records.

Summary of State Open Records and Meeting Laws

1. Open meeting laws typically apply to agencies of state and local government.
2. Announced times, places and agendas are required.
3. Most such laws permit closed or executive sessions.
4. A few punish public officials who violate the laws.
5. All 50 states have open records laws applying to agencies of state and local government.
6. Typically the state law permits some exemptions.
7. State privacy laws usually balanced against records laws.
8. Caveat: know the laws of your state inside out.
9. In Texas openness is the rule; secrecy is the exception.