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Public Comment on Privacy of Personal Information in Government Records

The public policy behind the Open Public Records Act is that government records should be readily accessible to citizens. Limitations on the right of access should generally be construed in favor of the public's right of access. Further, a public agency has a responsibility to safeguard a citizen's personal information from public access when disclosure of that information would violate a citizen's reasonable expectation of privacy.

Until recently, government records were difficult to access. But in the age of databases and Internet access, government records can be easily obtained and searched from almost anywhere. Records that were once scattered about are now consolidated by government's use of databases, some of which are Internet accessible.

Many details of an individual's life, activities, and personal characteristics can be found throughout the files of public agencies. While public agencies have a responsibility to safeguard a citizen's personal information, it must be balanced to ensure that the work of these agencies is open to those with a genuine need for governmental information.

Please consider the following question:

How do you think New Jersey should strike a balance between the recognized need for openness in government and concerns for personal privacy and security?

To answer this question, the Privacy Study Commission is seeking feedback on:

  1. Whether and to what extent home addresses and home telephone numbers of citizens should be made publicly available by public agencies?

  2. Whether and to what extent any personal information of citizens should be made publicly available by public agencies?

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