MACo Advocates for the Protection of Sensitive Personal Information

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel, Les Knapp, on behalf of MACo, testified in support of SB 5, Public Information Act – 9-1-1 Communications – Denial of Part of a Public Record, to the Senate Education, Health, & Environmental Affairs Committee on January 23, 2019.

This bill protects against the release of certain personally identifying information under the Maryland Public Information Act for transmissions received by 9-1-1 emergency dispatch personnel.

From the MACo testimony,

The bill requires a custodian to deny inspection, under the PIA, of any part of a 9-1-1 record that depicts: (1) a victim or information that could identify a victim of domestic violence, a sexual crime, or abuse; (2) personally relevant information that may identify a victim’s medical history; (3) information the custodian knows was voluntarily provided to the file by a third party; and (4) images that may be considered gory or gruesome or convey scenes of murder or suicide. The bill does not affect any discovery or evidentiary rights of a party in a civil suit or criminal prosecution and a person in interest may always inspect the record.

SB 5 anticipates the implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) in Maryland. NG9-1-1 will improve and enhance the handling of 9-1-1 calls from cell phone users with technology that will increase response times and location accuracy, and allow text, photo, and video data to be shared by callers to first responders on their way to the emergency.

However, unlike legacy 9-1-1 networks, which primarily rely on voice data, NG9-1-1 will generate media not previously subject to public scrutiny – including the insides of private homes and businesses and visceral scenes of trauma.  The potential for abusive use of such media, including victim-shaming and posting on the internet, is extremely high. SB 5 provides reasonable protections against them release of information showing victims of sensitive crimes or traumatic images while ensuring information important to the general public can be released. A person in interest can always receive and inspect a record.

For more on 2019 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.

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