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House Data Practices Subcommittee Hears Testimony on Bill Protecting Citizen Email Addresses.
(Published Feb 28, 2013)
League-supported legislation that would stop cities from having to turn over the email addresses of their citizens to third parties received its third hearing on February 27, this time in the House Data Practices Subcommittee. HF 20 (Rep. Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley), would protect citizen email addresses from being disclosed pursuant to requests under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA).
Under current law, if a city collects an email address or phone number from a citizen, the email address becomes public data, and must be given to any person who asks for it. Rep. Mike Freiberg, who served on the Golden Valley city council for nine years, told committee members he was surprised to learn that Minnesota law required this. He expressed concern that citizens would stop signing up for city listservs or mailing lists if they were worried about their contact information being given to third parties. Rep. Freiberg has worked closely with the League to put a stop to this practice, and will continue to work to pass this important legislation.
Some individuals testified in opposition to the bill, stating that any person should have access to citizen email addresses once they were collected by the government. One individual who has received over 2,000 email addresses through the MGDPA argued that cities should be required to make the emails easier to use for people requesting them. He noted that he had to retype many of the email addresses in order to send emails to citizens who had given their contact information to the city of Maplewood.
The League disagrees with these arguments, and believes that no citizen’s email address or phone number should have to be given to a third party simply because the citizen has asked the government to provide him or her with updates about city business (see DP-2, page 81 in 2013 City Policies). Cities cannot deny requests for citizen emails, and cannot ask the requestor to describe their intended use. Email addresses and phone numbers can be used by solicitors, telemarketers, campaign organizations, or even by those attempting to scam citizens out of more sensitive personal information.
The League believes that citizens do not expect, and do not want, their email addresses and phone numbers to be given to other people. The intent of the data practices act is to ensure transparency of government; it is not to create a datamine of personal information for use by interest groups.
The bill will next be discussed by the House Civil Law Committee for possible inclusion in an omnibus data practices bill. The Senate bill, authored by Sen. Bev Scalze, DFL-Little Canada, is awaiting a second hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
For more information, please check out the recent 15-Minute Advocate on citizen email addresses in the Cities Bulletin.
Questions? Contact Patrick Hynes at email@example.com or at (651) 281-1260.
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