Privacy Concerns

Executive Summary on Privacy Concerns and the Land Information Office Website
The Ozaukee County Land Information Office (LIO) serves as the coordinating body for land information and land records in Ozaukee County. The LIO currently hosts a site on the county’s web page that allows unrestricted access to mapping / aerial photographic information.

As use and awareness of this site has increased, 29 citizens have contacted county officials requesting that their names be blocked based on privacy concerns. These requests have raised a number of issues for the Land Information Office and for the county’s Division of Information Management about the type of information that should be distributed on the Internet.

Primary Issues from Recent Discussions
  • How does the Open Records law apply to information published on the Internet?
  • If personally identifiable information can be blocked from public access, what are the implications for customers?
  • If personally identifiable information can be blocked from public access, what are the implications for county staff in terms of workload?
  • How should the county balance its mandate to provide open access to public records with the desire of constituents to protect their personal privacy and safety?
Current Policy
The county’s current policy is to allow unrestricted access to Internet information because it is contained in public records that are subject to the Open Records law. However, a relatively rapid increase in requests to block access to names has prompted the LIO to re-examine this policy and seek legal advice.

Policy Options Available to Policy Makers
  • Maintain the status quo and do not restrict access to any information currently available.
  • Provide education on a legal alternative to block personally identifiable information.
  • Remove the name search capability but display all information, including names, in search results.
  • Restrict access to personally identifiable information based on certain criteria, upon request, completely, or for non-business uses.
Overview of Policy
The paper provides background information on the characteristics of the website, reports the policies of other jurisdictions with similar pages, discusses policy implications, offers technical options for blocking selected information, and discusses the consequences of blocking this information. The paper is clearly not a legal opinion, but it is intended to inform legal advisors and policy makers about the nature of the web site and the policy concerns it has generated. Since a legal opinion has not been rendered on the open records status of Internet information, the paper assumes that options to restrict some access may be available.

Privacy Concerns & the Land Information Office Website Policy Paper