The Arizona Public Records Law, Data Privacy and Protection
The Arizona Public Records Law is a public records and data privacy law that was originally enacted in 1901. The law has been amended several times since being passed in 1901, most notably in 2000, when the language of the law was changed to reflect the rise of electronic records and documentation in accordance with an increase in online communications during the turn of the century. With all this being said, the Arizona Public Records Law sets forth the requirements that state and government agencies must adhere to as it concerns making their public records and information accessible to residents of the state. Furthermore, the law also outlines the specific public records that are exempt from disclosure under the law.
How are public records defined under the law?
The Arizona Public Records Law defines personal records as “books, papers, maps, photographs, or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by a governmental agency in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved by the agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of government. Examples of public records and other matters include calendars, reports, legal memoranda, policies and procedures, accident reports, training videos and materials, tape recordings of meetings where there are no written minutes, personnel records, case files, and databases.”
What are the duties of public bodies within Arizona under the law?
The Arizona Public Records Law mandates that public bodies within the state take the steps and measures needed to ensure that residents of the state have access to their respective public records and related information. These steps and measures include but are not limited to:
- Public bodies have a duty to redact certain forms of personally identifiable information from public records, such as full names and personal addressees, prior to releasing said records to the general public.
- Public bodies have the right to charge a fee when complying with a records request, in an amount that the body deems appropriate.
- Public bodies have a responsibility to provide the public with certain records and information, free of charge, such as public records that will be used in connection with the claim of a pension within the state of Arizona, among other things.
- Public bodies and officers employed by such institutions have an obligation to protect and preserve the public records in their possession from deterioration, loss, mutilation, destruction, and unauthorized disclosure.
- Public bodies are responsible for developing a plan that can be used to regulate the efficient and economical management of public records in the possession of said bodies.
- Public bodies are responsible for designating an individual within the organization who will be charged with managing the public records of said organization.
What public records are exempt from the law?
As is the case with all public records laws, certain records and government information will be exempt from dissemination. To this point, some of the public records and government information that are exempt under the provisions of the Arizona Public Records Law include:
- Educational records.
- Records of student-level data.
- Medical information and vital records.
- Information concerning the purchase or lease of state lands.
- Disciplinary investigation information.
- Telecommunications and local government infrastructure records.
- Information that must remain confidential under attorney-client privilege.
- Information that a public body must provide in order to qualify for a state construction contract.
- Oil and gas well records.
- Individual unemployment insurance information.
- Trade secrets and proprietary information.
- Records detailing voter registration or declination.
Public records law and redaction
As the provisions of the Arizona Public Records Law require state agencies to redact certain categories of personally identifiable information from public records prior to releasing these records to the public, automatic redaction software is an ideal way to maintain compliance with the law. Through automatic redaction software, public bodies and state agencies within Arizona can remove personal information from public records in a manner that is both efficient and effective, as these software programs allow users to redact personal data in a matter of seconds. Through these means, public bodies can maintain compliance with legislation such as the Arizona Public Records Law.
As the taxpayer dollars of everyday working American citizens are used to fund projects and endeavors that are undertaken by both the U.S. federal government, as well as state and local governments around the country, legislation that allows these citizens to inspect records and information detailing the activities of their elected officials is of the utmost importance. Within the state of Arizona, such legislation has taken the form of the Arizona Public Records Law, as the various sections of the law grant residents of the state the right to request a greater level of transparency and accountability from their local government.