The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act, Data Security
The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act is a series of laws that were passed for the purpose of providing residents of the state with access to public records and government information. To this point, the first law was passed in 1975, while amendments to the law have been made as recently as 2021. With this being said, the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act lays out the responsibilities that public agencies and government entities have as it concerns making their public records and information accessible to residents within the state. Moreover, the law also outlines the specific records and information that are exempt from disclosure to the general public.
How is a state agency defined under the law?
The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act defines a state agency as “any executive, administrative or legislative office of the state or any political subdivision of the state and any state or town agency, any department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official of the state or of any city, town, borough, municipal corporation, school district, regional district or other district or other political subdivision of the state, including any committee of, or created by, any such office, subdivision, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official, and also includes any judicial office, official, or body or committee thereof but only with respect to its or their administrative functions.”
What are the duties of state agencies under the law?
State agencies have a number of responsibilities as it relates to ensuring that citizens have the right to request access to public records and government information under the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act. These responsibilities include but are not limited to the following:
- State agencies are prohibited from entering into contracts with businesses or individuals that would impair their ability to provide public records access to residents within the state of Connecticut.
- Except otherwise stated a federal statute or state regulation, all records or maintained on file by a state agency within Connecticut are considered to be public records under the provisions of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act. Agencies that fail to adhere to this provision will be in violation of the law.
- State agencies are required to keep and maintain records at their regular office or place of business, in a manner that is accessible to the public.
- State agencies have an obligation to redact certain forms of personal information from records prior to disclosing them to members of the public.
- State agencies that maintain public records in a computer storage system are responsible for providing copies to individuals requesting to access said records in a paper, disk, or tape format, or in another electronic format that has been requested by the individual looking to access the records.
- State agencies must consider the ways in which their technological solutions will impair their ability to comply with the law prior to acquiring any new computer systems, equipment, or software programs.
What public records are exempt from the law?
There are a number of categories of personal records and government information that are exempt from public disclosure under the sections of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act. Some of these public records include:
- Personnel and medical files.
- Recordings concerning strategy and negotiations in regard to pending claims or litigation that a state agency may be subject to.
- Trade secrets, including formulas, patterns, devices, methods, and techniques, among other things.
- Commercial and financial information that was provided to a state agency in confidence.
- Scoring keys, test questions, and other examination data that are used to administer professional licensing, employment, or academic examinations within the state of Connecticut.
- Educational records that are protected from disclosure by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA.
- Operational specifications of security systems that are utilized by the Connecticut Department of Corrections.
- Architectural and engineering drawings of government buildings.
- Emergency preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery plans that will be implemented in the event of a natural or manmade disaster.
Government information and redaction software
As the sections of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act require state agencies to redact certain forms of personal information from public records prior to releasing them to the general public, automatic redaction software can be used to make this process as easy and inexpensive as possible. To illustrate this point further, a government employee looking to redact full names from a particular government document could do so by using the patterns redaction feature within an automatic PDF redaction software program. Through these methods, the government employee in question could redact all necessary information in a matter of minutes, effectively safeguarding the personal privacy of all individuals involved.
While the regulations and exemptions established by public records legislation will vary from state to state around the U.S., these laws all provide American citizens with the means to access certain forms of government information and public records. In the context of the state of Connecticut, the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act grants residents of the state the right to request access to a wide range of information and public records, in an effort to promote the principles of transparency and accountability. In this way, Connecticut citizens can view from themselves the ways in which their tax dollars are being spent.