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Sunshine Advisory Bulletin

A Bulletin on Iowa Open Meetings and Public Records Laws
By Attorney General Tom Miller -- June 2003

Who Has Access to Personal Information Citizens Provide to State Agencies?

Citizens routinely supply state agencies with personal information -- for example, when they apply for a license to drive or hunt, renew a professional license, or file a claim for unemployment compensation. The information may well include a person's name, home address, home phone number, social security number, or birth date.

Who has access to this information? There is no single answer. Public access to personally- identifiable information collected by a state agency will vary depending on the type of information and the purpose for which the information is collected. However, one thing is always true: Citizens always have the right to know who has access before they supply personal information.

Before a state agency can use personal information about Iowa citizens, the agency is required by law (Iowa Code section 22.11) to adopt rules telling citizens:

  • The types of personally-identifiable information the agency collects.
  • The agency's legal authority to collect personally-identifiable information.
  • How the agency stores the information, who has access to the information, how mistakes can be corrected, and what the agency uses the information for.

Other public bodies, including cities and counties, are not required by Iowa's Public Records Law to adopt such policies, but they may do so voluntarily.

If a state agency requests information you consider private, find out if the information must be supplied and, if so, if it will be kept confidential. If the information is public, you might ask if you can substitute a business address for a home address, for example. In this electronic age of expanded public access to public records, officials and citizens need to be especially sensitive to government policies on collecting and using personal information.


Citizens who have inquiries or complaints may call the Iowa Citizens' Aide/Ombudsman Office - toll-free at 888-IA-OMBUD (888-426-6283.)

"Sunshine Advisory" bulletins are designed to give information on Iowa's public records and open meetings laws - our "Sunshine Laws." Local officials should obtain legal advice from their counsel, such as the city or county attorney

Iowa Attorney General's Office: Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.

On the Web: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org. Sunshine Advisories are a general resource for government officials and citizens.