• May 9, 2014
An Outhouse Without Internet: Privacy's Last Refuge

An Outhouse Without Internet: Privacy’s Last Refuge

Some citizens, most often associated with right-wing ideology, view governments (state or federal) as bloated, inefficient, mired in bureaucracy, mediocrity, cronyism, patronage, choking under the weight of red-tape, as agile as an aircraft carrier and as inefficient as a Hummer H3X.

There might be some truth to some or to all of that in particular organizations in particular agencies, in particular departments, at particular times. But that’s what elections are for. When politicians and the factions they preside over get obese with complacency, the electorate should “throw the bums out” and a new wave should roll in wash away the inefficiencies. This is how it is supposed to work, anyhow.

But a government bureaucracy has some inherent challenges that other large institutions do not have. Almost everything is supposed to be public, for one. This fact adds a dense layer of concerns, responsibilities, and obligations.

Let’s say, for example, that allegations are made against police officers of corruption, wrong-doing, and immoral conduct. Presumably, such allegations are taken extremely seriously, are carefully investigated, are found to be accurate or inaccurate after a comprehensive investigation and steps are taken to punish wrong-doers and put systems in place to prevent the misconduct going forward.

Maybe some of the allegations may be found out to be true and others false.

Maybe the investigation delves into the private lives of public workers in ways that are not of broad social importance but are generally the kinds of things employers do not publicize.

This is not a simple or straightforward issue. Here is a recent decision by Sr. U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty (D. Minn.), drawing the line between what should be public and what should stay private, consistent with state laws and public interest in connection with the Star Tribune’s efforts to access some of the court record in the Keefe v. City of Minneapolis case.

Here is a recently unsealed order in the case.


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