Government Agencies and Privacy Legislation in Texas
Tex. Govt. Code Ann. § 10-2054.126 is an online website privacy and data protection law that was enacted in 2005. The law was passed for the purpose of protecting the various forms of personally identifiable information that citizens within Texas submit to state agencies via their online websites. To this point, the law outlines the requirements that state agencies must adhere to as it pertains to ensuring that the personal information of visitors to their respective websites is protected at all times. Furthermore, the law also set forth a variety of online activities or practices that are strictly prohibited.
How is a state agency defined under the law?
Tex. Govt. Code Ann. § 10-2054.126 defines a state agency or department as “a department, commission, board, office, council, authority, or other agency in the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of state government that is created by the constitution or a statute of this state, including a university system or institution of higher education as defined by Section 61.003, Education Code.” Alternatively, a state agency website is defined as a “state website maintained by or for a Texas state agency, including an institution of higher education, intended to provide access to state government information, including electronic format state publications. State agency websites, excluding institutions of higher education, are web harvested by the TRAIL service.”
What are the duties of state agencies under the law?
- A statement detailing the circumstances under which individuals are allowed to use and reproduce information that has been obtained via a state agency website, without the state agency’s permission.
- A statement describing the instances in which individuals are permitted to create online links to state agency websites, without the state agency’s permission.
- A statement detailing the procedures that Texas residents must follow when looking to use or copy personal information contained within a state agency’s website.
- A statement describing the steps and measures taken to protect the privacy and personally identifiable information of all parties involved in the use of state agency websites.
- State agencies are prohibited from selling or disclosing a Texas resident’s email address via their online websites without their permission or consent.
- State agencies are prohibited from requiring Texas citizens to pay a fee in order to access, use, or reproduce information that is contained within their online websites.
- State agencies are prohibited from requiring Texas residents to credit their websites as the source of information for a particular subject or topic.
What data elements are covered under the law?
The data elements pertaining to Texas citizens are protected from unauthorized access and disclosure under Tex. Govt. Code Ann. § 10-2054.126 include but are not limited to:
- Email addresses.
- Postal addresses.
- Social security numbers.
- Passport information.
- Drivers licenses.
- State identification cards.
- Full names.
- Phone numbers.
- Financial information.
- Online log-in information.
- Dates and places of birth.
- Biometric identifiers.
- Mother’s maiden name.
- Unique electronic identification numbers.
State agencies and redaction
When looking to comply with legislation such as Tex. Govt. Code Ann. § 10-2054.126, state agencies within Texas can use automatic redaction software to protect the personal information of both users of their websites, as well as the information contained within said websites. As these redaction software programs provide users with the ability to render personal data inaccessible, this information can be secured from unauthorized disclosure or data breaches. For example, a state agency could redact the username or email addresses of visitors to their website, ensuring that this information does not become compromised.
As state agencies and government websites will undoubtedly contain a wide range of personal data elements, appropriate steps and measures must be taken to protect the personal data of both state agencies, as well as the citizens that visit the websites of such agencies. Within the state of Texas, Govt. Code Ann. § 10-2054.126 stands to provide citizens with the level of legal protection needed to safeguard their personal details and data. Through such legislation, residents within Texas can have the assurance that any personal information they submit to a government or state agency will remain secure and confidential.