Your collapsing privacy rights…

Prior posts on this blog have noted that public universities such as UC are subject to public records requests under state law.  Such requests can include emails you have sent or received.

Some faculty members may be under the impression that if they use personal accounts (such as gmail, etc.) or a home computer, their emails are not subject to such requests.  Note, however, that emails sent from personal accounts to public ones would clearly be subject to public records requests.  Moreover, a recent court decision suggests that emails sent from personal (non-public) accounts can be requested as long as they pertain to a public function.  So an email that related to a university matter would not be exempt from a public records request.

Note that private universities such as, say, Stanford are not subject to such requests.

From the Mercury-News:

A Santa Clara County judge has ruled that San Jose must provide city officials’ private text messages, emails or other electronic communications about city affairs in response to an activist’s request, a potentially far-reaching decision that could settle a growing dispute over what open-government advocates say has become a glaring loophole in the state’s public records law…

City Attorney Rick Doyle could not say whether the city will appeal because he hasn’t discussed the decision with the City Council. But he agreed that its potential would be broad, arguing it could be troubling on both practical and privacy grounds…

Full story at

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