The Iowa Open Records Law and Data Privacy Rules
The Iowa Open Records Law refers to a series of laws that were enacted for the purpose of providing residents of the state with access to certain categories of public records and government information. The first law was passed in 1967, in conjunction with the federal Freedom of Information Act or FOIA which was signed into law the same year. As such, the law establishes the specific public records that citizens in the state of Iowa retain the right to request access to. Furthermore, the law sets forth the responsibilities that state agencies within Iowa have as it relates to the accessibility of their public records.
How is a government body defined under the law?
The Iowa Open Records Law defines a government body as any “state, or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision, tax-supported district, nonprofit corporation other than a fair conducting a fair event as provided in chapter 174, whose facilities or indebtedness are supported in whole or in part with property tax revenue and which is licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering pursuant to chapter 99D; the governing body of a drainage or levee district as provided in chapter 468, including a board as defined in section 468.3, regardless of how the district is organized; or other entity of this state, or any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council, committee, official, or officer of any of the foregoing or any employee delegated the responsibility for implementing the requirements of this chapter.”
What are the duties of government bodies under the law?
The Iowa Open Records Law mandates that government bodies take the steps necessary to ensure that residents of the state are able to request access to their public records. To this point, the duties that government bodies have under the law include:
- Government bodies have a duty to redact any personally identifiable or confidential information from their public records prior to disclosing said records to a requestor.
- Government bodies have a duty to respond to a request to access their public records within 10 to 20 days.
- Government bodies are prohibited from preventing the examination or copying of their records by outsourcing their responsibilities under the law to a third party or non-governmental organization.
- Government bodies are prohibited from requiring an individual to access their public records in person, as the law state that such access can be made by telephone, in writing, or via electronic means.
- The amount that government bodies charge a requestor to access their respective government records may not exceed the cost associated with the direct publication, editing, compilation, or copying of said records.
What public records are exempt from disclosure under the law?
Much like other open records laws that have been enacted in other states around the U.S., the provisions of the Iowa Open Records Law outline certain exceptions that forbid the disclosure of certain records to the general public. Subsequently, some examples of public records that are exempt from dissemination under the law include:
- Medical records.
- Trade secrets.
- Confidential military records.
- Library records.
- Records of attorneys who represent the state.
- Educational records and student information.
- Appraisal information pertaining to public land purchases.
- Economic development authority information.
- Memoranda, case files, and work products of a mediator.
- Archaeological and historical ecologically sensitive material locations and information.
- Portions of records disclosing the identity of a donor or prospective donor.
- Records concerning physical and critical infrastructure within Iowa.
Public records access and redaction
As the Iowa Open Records Law, much like other similar legislation, requires government bodies within the state of Iowa to redact personally identifiable information from their records prior to disclosing them to a requestor, these organizations are faced with a challenge. To this end, automatic redaction software provides a solution to such a challenge, as these software programs can be used to effectively obscure personal information from a wide range of mediums including PDFs, documents, audio files, video footage, and email messages, among others. In this way, government agencies can rest assured that they will be able to grant access to their public records while simultaneously securing the personal privacy of all parties involved.
With the enactment of the Iowa Open Records Law in 1967, residents of the state were afforded the opportunity to request access to the public records and information of the government agencies that function on the basis of their tax dollars. Much like the federal Freedom of Information Law or the FOIA for short, the Iowa Open Records Law provides state government institutions with the means to promote transparency between themselves and the public with which they serve, as their roles in society are predicated on their ability to remain accountable to citizens residing within the state.