Minnesota lawmakers propose safeguards against misuse of government databases

Posted by: on Jan 24, 2013 | No Comments

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_22436545/minnesota-lawmakers-propose-safeguards-against-misuse-government-databases

Minnesota lawmakers propose safeguards against misuse of government databases
By Kyle Potter
Associated Press

Updated: 01/23/2013 08:14:37 PM CST

Sens. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville
A week after more than 5,000 Minnesotans found out that a Department of Natural Resources employee had looked up their driving or motor vehicle records, state lawmakers Wednesday announced their plan to curb abuse of databases.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, outlined a bill that would require all state and local government agencies to establish better safeguards against database misuse and calls for harsher criminal penalties for violators.
Holberg said the breach at the DNR underscored the need for an overhaul of how government handles its data on Minnesotans.
“We’re just really frustrated that this is continuing to happen,” Holberg said. “This situation has to stop.”
The bill would increase the penalty for repeatedly abusing a database from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor.
It also would require all government entities to post an investigation on the Internet, detailing what data was accessed, how many people were affected and naming who was responsible.
Holberg and Dibble’s bill would apply to local government and law enforcement as well. Current law only governs state agencies.
Investigations have found that misuse of the state driver’s license and motor vehicle database is common. Minneapolis, St. Paul and more than 10 other municipalities have paid out $1 million combined in settlements to a former area police officer who accused other officers of improperly accessing her driver’s license information.
It’s especially troubling that databases are being abused “by public safety employees whom we trust with sensitive information,” Dibble said.
Dibble and Holberg said they’ll consider recommendations from the legislative auditor, who is expected to release a report next month on how law enforcement uses state databases.
“I think everybody recognizes that we don’t have the proper systems and procedures in place,” Holberg said.

Man who was charged after recording deputies has free lawyer

Posted by: on Jan 15, 2013 | No Comments

A private attorney working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has agreed to represent a Little Canada man whose video camera was taken from him by a sheriff’s deputy.

Andrew Henderson, 28, was recording an incident involving a man at his apartment building Oct. 30 when Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy Jacqueline Muellner grabbed the camera.

Henderson was later charged with obstructing legal process and disorderly conduct. He said he was sitting about 30 feet away from the incident. Muellner wrote on the citation that Henderson was interfering with the privacy of the other man, who was being loaded into an ambulance.

Henderson eventually got the camera back, but there was no recording on it. He believes it was deleted.

“A citizen such as Mr. Henderson has an absolute right to be present in a public area, as he was, and to take pictures or to film the surroundings, including police officers that were present,” said Henderson’s attorney, John Lundquist of Fredrikson & Byron in Minneapolis, on Friday, Jan. 11. “And by seizing his camera, they violated in a very dramatic way his First Amendment rights.”

Lundquist is a criminal defense attorney with 30 years experience at his firm.

Chuck Samuelson of the ACLU confirmed that the nonprofit had come to a verbal agreement with Lundquist and Henderson on Friday on Henderson’s representation.

Attorneys with the firm of Kelly & Lemmons, which is prosecuting Henderson on behalf of the city of
Little Canada, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

“We figure that when they’re faced with legitimate legal representation, they’ll say, ‘Oops, our bad,’ and drop the case,” Samuelson said.

Henderson’s next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 30.
When Muellner took his camera the night of the incident, she told him, “If I end up on YouTube, I’m gonna be upset.”

Henderson told her that what he was doing was legal. He refused to give his name.

But he identified himself when he went to the sheriff’s station the next day to retrieve the camera. He received the citation in the mail a few days after that.

Henderson’s case is similar to others around the country involving citizens recording police activities.

Courts have ruled elsewhere that law enforcement officers have no expectation of privacy when they carry out their duties in a public place.

Ramsey County sheriff’s spokesman Randy Gustafson said Tuesday that it is not the department’s policy to take people’s cameras. People are within their rights to record deputies’ activities, he said.

Henderson said he carries his camera with him and uses it often. Police should be held accountable for their actions, he said.

The deputy wrote on the citation, “While handling a medical/check the welfare (call), (Henderson) was filming it. Data privacy HIPAA violation. Refused to identify self. Had to stop dealing with sit(uation) to deal w/Henderson.”

HIPAA, or the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, deals with how consumers’ health information is handled by health care providers. It does not cover private citizens recording a medical event.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May ruled that an Illinois law barring audio recording of a conversation without consent of all parties “restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests.” As applied in that case, “(the law) likely violates the First Amendment’s free-speech and free-press guarantees,” the court ruled.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined in November to hear the state’s appeal.

In another case, Boston attorney Simon Glik was arrested in 2007 after he used his cellphone to videorecord several police officers roughly arresting another man. The state charged him with violating Massachusetts’ wiretap law; those charges were thrown out.

Glik sued the city of Boston, claiming his arrest constituted a violation of his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that Glik was “exercising clearly established First Amendment rights in filming the officers in a public space, and that his clearly established Fourth Amendment rights were violated by his arrest without probable cause.”

The city of Boston paid Glik $170,000.

Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522. Follow her at twitter.com/emilygurnon.

COGI-tation on Data Practices issues facing the MN Legislature

Posted by: on Jan 8, 2013 | No Comments

On January 28, 2013, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) will host a public discussion on Data Practices issues facing the 2013 Minnesota Legislature.  The Minnesota Data Practices Act is the state’s chief open government law.
 
Issues to be discussed will include the status of license plate scan data; whether citizen e-mail addresses held by government entities should be public or private; the extent to which personnel data about public officials should be public, the degree to which “criminal intelligence data” should be kept secret, and possible changes to how the Data Practices Act is enforced.

COGI-tations are free, public forums sponsored by the
Minnesota Coalition on Government Information.

Discussion:
Monday, Jan 28, 2013, 2-3:30 pm in MN Capitol Meeting Room 118

Presenter: 
MNCOGI board member Don Gemberling will present MNCOGI’s positions on several issues that will come before the legislature this year.  Mr. Gemberling was the past director of IPAD, the office within the Department of Administration responsible for Data Practices issues.

Questions? Contact: Helen Burke, MNCOGI Board Chair at MNCOGI@gmail.com

​A Look at Cameras in Minnesota Courts

Posted by: on Oct 16, 2012 | No Comments

The Minnesota Supreme Court is allowing cameras to record proceedings in civil cases for a test that runs through June 30, 2013. The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information is hosting a panel discussion to examine this experiment at its halfway point. 

Minnesota news organizations hope that the test will demonstrate that recording equipment does not disrupt court proceedings, and can enhance the public’s understanding of what goes on inside its courts.  They also hope that the experiment will open the door to expanded coverage of criminal court proceedings in Minnesota.

Panel discussion:
Wednesday, Oct. 24,  11am-12:30pm in Room 10 of the State Office Building. 

Panelists include:
Seventh District Assistant Chief Judge John H. Scherer of Stearns County
Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan
Emily Gurnon, courts reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press
Joan Gilbertson, producer for WCCO-TV
David Unze, reporter for the St. Cloud Times

Moderator:  John P. Borger, MNCOGI board member and partner at Faegre Baker Daniels

Minnesota CLE credits are pending approval

Questions?  Contact Helen Burke, MNCOGI Board Chair at mncogi@gmail.com

“Digging Digital Docs” is Featured in the FYI Newsletter

Posted by: on Nov 17, 2010 | No Comments

For people tracking data practices activities in Minnesota, FYI: From the Information Policy Division the The Fall 2010 issue of  features a recap of the recent COGI-tations workshop by David Cullier from the University of Arizona, “Digging Digital Docs.”  It also includes an update on the gang database workgroup. 

Transparency and academic freedom in Texas

Posted by: on Nov 17, 2010 | No Comments

An article in the September/October issue of ACADEME, “Three Clicks and Academic Freedom is Out,” describes a new law in Texas.  As a result of legislation passed in 2009, all public universities are required to post detailed syllabi for all undergraduate courses, a curriculum vitae for each regular instructor, a department budget report for each course offered, and reports of student course evaluations.  The author notes this law as an example of how “activists, notable in Texas but with ties to other states and to national groups, have adopted the rhetoric of transparency to further their own conservative agendas.”

College Records are Public Documents Too

Posted by: on Sep 20, 2010 | No Comments

David Cuillier will be speaking at the upcoming COGI-tations lecture, “Digging Digital Docs: The Law and Practical Strategies for Acquiring Government Electronic Records,” on September 27, 2010.  Cuillier wrote The Art of Access with Charles Davis of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.  Since there will always be more stories about public records being concealed or revealed, they maintain an blog with the same name. An  interesting recent post described a lawsuit filed by an open government group in California, asking California State University to disclose their speakers contract for a recent appearance by Sarah Palin.  The contract was a public record, Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Roger Beauchesne ruled.  See the story: “Bendable Straws.. Really?

Upcoming COGI-tations Lecture (in which you will learn there is nothing dry about government records)

Posted by: on Sep 10, 2010 | No Comments

If you can get up early on a Monday morning, there’s a great lecture coming up on September 27, part of the COGI-tations series from the   Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI). The guest speaker is David Cuillier, Professor of Journalism at the University of Arizona and co-author of the newly-published book, The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records.

Cuillier’s talk is “Digging Digital Docs: The Law and Practical Strategies for Acquiring Government Electronic Records.”

His book is filled with government record research tips – questions to ask, examples of request letters, and interesting real-life stories.   Fascinating pull-out “Pro Tips” by journalists and attorneys throughout the book are inspiring.

This MNCOGI session will be energizing for journalists, librarians, researchers, and citizen activists.  You’ll learn about where to look for government records and how to work with government agencies to get them (and never take no for an answer!). 

The details:

Digging Digital Docs: The Law and Practical Strategies for Acquiring Government Electronic Records

8 – 9:30 a.m.  (Doors open for coffee and rolls at 7:45)
Monday, September 27, 2010

WomenVenture  (map)
2324 University Avenue
St. Paul, MN  55114
(free parking!)

Quote from THE ART OF ACCESS:  “Just as Trump is in charge of his private company, we the citizens are quite literally in charge of our public companies – federal, state and local agencies.  Government employees work for us.  We pay their salaries.  As their bosses, we have not just the authority but the duty to make sure out employees are doing what we pay them to do.  If they aren’t we point them to the door.  That’s democracy.  Thomas Jefferson said our country is based on government “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.””  (p. 21)

MNCOGI’s COGI-tations series returns! Monday, September 27 & Wednesday, November 17

Posted by: on Aug 19, 2010 | No Comments

Monday morning, September 27 (breakfast, time tbd)
Women Ventures Meeting Room, 2324 Univ. Ave. W., St. Paul, MN 55114

  • David Cuillier speaks on his latest book, The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records. He is the Society of Professional Journalists’ Freedom Of Information Committee Chair and teaches journalism at the University of Arizona.  

Wednesday, November 17. Two sessions on the MN Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA).
Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Mpls, MN 55401

  • Morning session from 10:30-12. The fundamentals of the MGDPA led by Don Gemberling
  • Afternoon session from 1-2. Panel discussion on the impact of new technology on the MGDPA, moderated by Eric Magnuson, recently retired Chief Justice, MN Supreme Court.

Both events are free.
Breakfast provided on 9/27; box lunch provided on 11/17.
Hope you can join us!

MNCOGI received funding for both events from the NFOIC through a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Don Gemberling is Co-chair of a New Work Group on Gang Databases

Posted by: on Jul 20, 2010 | No Comments

2010 marks the first year that the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information has been mentioned in a law passed by the Minnesota Legislature.  In Chapter 383, Section 6, MNCOGI was listed as one of the groups to be represented in a new work group convened by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to “discuss issues and laws pertaining to criminal intelligence databases.” Not only was Don Gemberling from MNCOGI appointed to the group, he is one of the two co-chairs. Additional information on appointments is found in this article from Politics in Minnesota. Here’s the text of the law requiring the work group.

 “Sec. 6. WORK GROUP. (a) The superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal
Apprehension shall convene a work group of stakeholders and
interested parties to: (1) discuss issues and laws pertaining to
criminal intelligence databases; and (2) make recommendations on
proposed legislative changes for the classification, storage,
dissemination, and use of criminal investigative data, including data
from other states, and for guidelines governing usage and collection
of criminal investigative data held by law enforcement agencies. The
work group shall be chaired by a representative from the Bureau of
Criminal Apprehension and a representative from the Minnesota
Coalition on Government Information. The work group must include one
representative from each of the following organizations: the
Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association; the Minnesota Chiefs of Police
Association; the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association; the
American Civil Liberties Union – Minnesota; the Minnesota Newspaper
Association; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People; the councils created in Minnesota Statutes, sections 3.922,
3.9223, 3.9225, and 3.9226; the Board of Public Defense; the
Minnesota County Attorneys Association; and the Minnesota City
Attorneys Association; and a citizen member who is knowledgeable in
data privacy issues. The work group must be balanced between law
enforcement and nonlaw enforcement representatives. The work group
shall not exceed 20 members, including chairs. In its discussions,
the work group shall balance public safety and privacy interests,
state policy according to Minnesota Statutes, section 260B.002,
oversight, minimization of discretion, and regulation of the
collection of these data, including the individualized criteria for
inclusion in a computerized gang database. (b) By February 1, 2011,
the work group shall submit an executive summary document to the
chairs and ranking minority members of the committees of the senate
and house of representatives with jurisdiction over criminal justice
and data practices issues. The document must summarize the work group
meetings and outline proposed legislative changes to implement
recommendations on which there is agreement. The Department of Public
Safety shall provide administrative support to the work group.”