November 10th, 2003, 04:23 PM
Public information law and web sites
I'm a police officer in Ohio involved in redesigning our department's web site. I'd like to put dynamic missing person and wanted person records on the web site but am getting some resistance due to privacy act and public information law concerns.
Ohio has one of the most liberal public information policies in the United States - nearly everything but social security numbers are considered public information in our records. Those that don't think posting these records would be "legal" couldn't come up with specific acts that would be violated so I'm not sure how seriously to take their concerns.
I've searched for one of the acts mentioned in opposition to displaying these records (Sarbanes-Oxley), but that doesn't seem to apply. Can anyone direct me to a resource or better search terms to find some information about this?
Specifically, what are the legal ramifications of displaying photos and personal information (name, city, physical description, and age) of missing and wanted persons? Especially considering a web hosting company will likely be in another state...
November 15th, 2003, 06:39 PM
I doubt there are - if any. I mean, you have the Code Amber alert that you can put on your site. Plus http://www.missingkids.com/ offers you ways of incorporating their information on your site. We also use to post missing children on one of the sites that I worked on. I am in California, the server was in Texas & then in Illinois. We never had a problem with it & I do not see how anyone would. I mean, you are providing a public service to the community. And heck - we are in CA - the state where the convicted can sue the police for embarrassment!
And as far as the people wanted - well the FBI does it. I doubt that a shoplifter would has the same rights as a murderer? The only difference I could see, if the person has not been convicted but wanted, it should state that very obviously.
November 16th, 2003, 11:08 AM
You're right - after checking the Freedom of Information Act (which basically specifies what information must be made public) and the Privacy act of 1974 (which prohibits collecting information then using it for purposes other than those specified on collection), it does seem like a non-issue...
I appreciate the responses (public and private) - I didn't want to argue this point with my supervision without having something solid to back me up.
November 16th, 2003, 11:45 AM
No problem. Although I am not an atty - I just could not see any sites that had an issue with that.. I was in the military though & I totally understand that you need to cover all your bases.
December 11th, 2003, 06:38 AM
I would check with a lawyer in situations like this just to make sure its all ok.
December 26th, 2003, 03:48 PM
You should check with your city's legal counsel before you post any information. Even if the information you are posting is legal for you to post it may be against your city's disclosure policies. If your city does not have a public disclosure policy you will at least have covered your *** by clearing it through the proper chanels.
December 31st, 2003, 02:21 PM
Ohio Public Information
We have been running a non-profit group here in Ohio for over two years as an "education" institution. We farm hundreds of thousands of criminal and traffic records and make that information available to parents and the like who wish to research baby sitters, prospective mates, etc.
We also have traffic safety interfaces that allow us to accept roadrage complaints and we in turn send the offending driver education information about their infraction in order to deter agressive driving and unsafe roadway habits.
Our services have been featured on all local media outlets (TV) and national radio and our lawyer doesn't see a problem with it.
Now... Does this stop us from being dragged into court. NO! We came close many times but because we are a non-profit that is for educational purposes and public welfare... It helps us a great deal.
There was a case many years ago where a police chief would go on cable TV here in Ohio and re-cap the weeks events in his City. If I recall correctly he was sued because he inserted some editorial comments when speaking about a case.
If you do post data... I would highly recommend sticking to the record facts ONLY and let the reader come to their own conclusions. You will also want to research your departments insurance policy regarding E&O Errors and Ommisions insurance. This is what news papers and most publication companies carry as protection for misprints.
Good luck and I am all for letting the public know who they need to watch out for.
--Foo Man Chow