Cities lobby to keep more data secret

Minneapolis and St. Paul will both lobby the Legislature to keep more of the data they collect private.

The two city councils signed off this week on legislative agendas that would carve out new exceptions to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. The act says all government information is public unless state law classifies it otherwise.

Both cities want more types of information classified, starting with email addresses. Earlier this year, a number of cities in the east metro received requests for all the email addresses they had on file. At least one city, Roseville, complied.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis had to hand over information collected by cameras that automatically log the location of license plates. It wants the law changed so only police would have access to that data.

The St. Paul police also want tighter control of their data and will support a push to classify “criminal intelligence data.” A bill that failed to become law last session defined that as information “a law enforcement agency uses to anticipate, prevent, or monitor possible criminal or terrorist activity.”

“There is a real possibility that innocent people could be speculated upon and branded as a suspect and be placed in a database secretly,” privacy and open government advocate Rich Neumeister wrote in an email urging the council to ditch the criminal intelligence language.

St. Paul Police spokesman Howie Padilla said the department is just looking for some “consistent language” to clarify when law enforcement data is considered public.

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