Online Privacy and Government in the State of Illinois
The Illinois State Agency Web Site Act is a data privacy law that was enacted in 2004. The law was passed for the purpose of protecting the various forms of personal information that citizens within the state of Illinois disclose when accessing public records and information via a state-agency website, particularly as it pertains to online cookies. What’s more, the provisions of the law also prohibit state websites from engaging in any practices that could lead to the invasive tracking of personal information, including all other tools or mechanisms that can be used to monitor and track website viewing habits.
How is a state agency defined under the law?
Under the Illinois State Agency Web Site Act, a state agency is defined as “all officers, boards, commissions and agencies created by the Constitution, whether in the executive, legislative or judicial branch, but other than the circuit court; all officers, departments, boards, commissions, agencies, institutions, authorities, universities, bodies politic and corporate of the State; and administrative units or corporate outgrowths of the State government which are created by or pursuant to statute, other than units of local government and their officers, school districts and boards of election commissioners; all administrative units and corporate outgrowths of the above and as may be created by executive order of the Governor.”
What are the duties of state agencies under the law?
Illinois State Agency Web Site Act outlines the following rules and regulations as it pertains to state agency websites that residents within the state of Illinois will access when looking to obtain public information or records:
- State agency websites are prohibited from using permanent cookies or other forms of invasive tracking mechanisms. Nevertheless, website transactional cookies that are used to facilitate business transactions are permitted under the law.
- State agency websites are responsible for developing and implementing security measures that can be used to protect the information of Illinois residents.
- State agency websites may only collect the cookies in accordance with the expressed consent of Illinois residents.
- Certain permanent cookies are exempt under the law. For instance, state agency websites are permitted to use permanent cookies, if such practices would provide value to users of the site that would not otherwise be available. Conversely, permanent cookies used by state agency websites that are not used to monitor or track website viewing habits are also permitted under the law.
Internet Privacy Task Force
In addition to the stipulations and guidelines that state agency websites are required to follow under the law, the Illinois State Agency Web Site Act also established an Internet Privacy Task Force. Comprised of 17 members selected by various members of the Illinois state legislature, this task force is charged with taking the steps and measures necessary to ensure that all visits to state agency websites remain both confidential and private. To this point, the Internet Privacy Task Force has the following responsibilities:
- The Internet Privacy Task Force is responsible for investigating and determining the procedural safeguards and technical changes that are needed to protect the privacy and data integrity of all individuals that visit state agency websites.
- The Internet Privacy Task Force is responsible for identifying potential threats to the integrity of state agency websites that may be caused by internet browsers, internet service providers, web servers, or search engines, among other things.
- If necessary, the Internet Privacy Task Force is responsible for developing and implementing on State hosted websites that will automatically disable online cookies, as well as other invasive programs.
- The Internet Privacy Task Force is responsible for submitting annual reports to the Governor of Illinois concerning their research, findings, and recommendations for any given calendar year.
Under federal legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA, as well as amendments that were made to the law under the Electronic or E-FOIA, American citizens have the right to view personal information and records regarding the jurisdiction in which they live. To this end, many U.S. states have also enacted legislation that allows citizens to view certain public records that their own discretion. Within the state of Illinois, such legislation has taken the form of the State Agency Web Site Act.
While being provided access to public records in an effective way to promote transparency and trust in government and the people they serve, the tracking and monitoring of online cookies comprise such attempts, as these forms of information can be used to identify individuals. Subsequently, the Illinois State Agency Web Site Act provides residents of the state with the right to access state agency websites without having to provide cookies, unless such cookies are in the furtherance of their individual pursuits.