Freedom of information: Government secrecy vs. privacy


Minnesota’s Government Data Practices Act is riddled with rules designed to provide or withhold all kinds of information relating to the state’s business. Experts disagree on which should be available and which should not. Insidious in a democracy, the shutting down of information citizens must know to properly govern themselves has become an obsession of elected and appointed officials throughout the systems designed to serve us. Yes, we have the FOI – the Freedom of Information Act – but that has neither stopped nor abated the attempts to keep from the public the more critical record of their governing institutions. And yet…and yet. We seem to be losing the battle to ensure and control our privacy. When is government information legitimately kept from us? And how can we protect our personal lives from data predators? TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN talk with a policymaker, a heralded advocate, an ethicist and a librarian in search of the proper access and limits we should seek for governing ourselves and protecting privacy.

• HELEN BURKE – Senior Librarian, Hennepin Co. Library Government Documents; President, MN Coalition on Government Information (MN-COGI);
• JANE KIRTLEY – Professor, School of Journalism, and Director, Silha Center for Media Law and Ethics – University of MN;
• RICH NEUMEISTER – Citizen Lobbyist, FOI Advocate, Winner, 2009 John R. Finnegan Award;
• REP. MARY LIZ HOLBERG, (R-36A-Lakeville) – Member, House Civil Justice Committee; Legislative advocate for Data Practices and enforcement.

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