Utah State Archives notes that the American Library Association has created Choose Privacy Week, an “annual, week-long event that promotes the importance of individual privacy rights and celebrates libraries and librarians’’ unique role in protecting privacy in the library and in society as a whole.” Much has been said about the value of government transparency, however, personal privacy is also important. The Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) provides for both.
GRAMA provides that “a record is public unless otherwise expressly provided by statute” (Utah Code Subsection 63G-2-201(2)). Then it includes lists of private records (Utah Code Section 63G-2-302). Other laws and rules identify and protect private information as well. Because all privacy issues cannot specifically be contemplated, GRAMA includes the provision that records are private if releasing them would be “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” (Utah Code Subsection 63G-2-302(2)(d)). This is an interpretive provision allowing governmental entities to withhold access to information not specifically identified, but which they deem should be restricted to protect an individual’s privacy.
Privacy means different things to different people and because this law is interpretive, it can have broad application. For example, the law has been applied to an individual’s utility usage (such as water or electricity) and to juvenile names and images. State Records Committee decisions upholding a governmental entity’s privacy classification based on this provision provide a flavor for some of the ways it can be applied.
- In September 2015, the Salt Lake Tribune requested from Utah State University all records involving student disciplinary actions in cases involving violent or sexual crimes in which a student was sanctioned. Specifically, the Tribune requested the student’s name, the nature of the violation, the date it was committed, and the sanction issued. In response, Utah State University provided the requested information but withheld student names. On appeal, the State Records Committee determined that releasing the names of individuals who were disciplined for violation of university codes of conduct would be a clearly unwarranted invasion of their privacy (State Records Committee Case No. 16-05).
- In the April 2017 case, Andrew Becker v. Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Records Committee determined that the release of an unredacted video image from a police officer’s body camera showing the face of a passenger in a DUI stop would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. After hearing testimony and viewing the records in camera, Committee determined that the Sheriff’s Office had appropriately redacted the video and could recoup the editing costs. (State Records Committee Case No. 17-15).
- In July 2013, Mr. Leishman, an inmate, requested information about the security clearances of another inmate that related to that inmate’s religious practices as observed by staff in the Wasatch Family History Center offices. UDC provided no records because provision, by implication, would identify the individual. The State Records Committee determined that the information contained in the requested records involved the religious practices of a prison inmate, and their release would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of his personal privacy (State Records Committee Case No. 13-05) .
- In May 2012, Kurt Danysh requested crime scene photographs and other records relating to the murder of Susan Gall. The State Records Committee was persuaded that all photographs depicting the victim, the inside of the victim’s home, as well as photographs depicting the perpetrator unclothed should be classified as private because release would be a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy (State Records Committee Case No. 12-09).