In 2011, the legislature took major steps toward modernizing the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). Here is a brief overview of changes that occurred in 2011:
1. Prevention of ID Theft. Certain numbers may be redacted prior to public inspection or copying of a record. Agencies may (but aren’t required to) black out:
a. All but the last four digits of a taxpayer identification number, financial account number or driver’s license number;
b. All but the year of a person’s date of birth; and
c. Social Security numbers.
2. Better Customer Service. Records custodians have two new responsibilities, meant to facilitate quick, easy communication with requesters:
a. Custodians must respond to IPRA requests in the same medium (e-mail or paper) in which the request was made, in addition to any other medium deemed appropriate. (In other words, if a request is submitted by e-mail, the 3-day and 15-day response letters must be sent by e-mail.)
b. Custodians must post the required public-records notice on their agency’s website, if a website exists. The notice must now include contact information for the custodian of records.
3. Taking Advantage of E-Records. It is now clear that electronic records must be provided in electronic formats, if specifically requested.
a. Custodians are only required to provide electronic records in the existing file format.
b. Exempt information in electronic records must be removed, along with any corresponding metadata, using methods or tools that prevent recovery of the exempt information.
c. Copy fees for electronic copies are as follows:
i. the actual costs associated with downloading copies to a disk or storage device
ii. the actual costs associated with transmitting copies by mail, e-mail or fax
d. As always, “actual costs” refer to the cost of copying. Copy fees may not include personnel time to locate, separate or review records prior to inspection.