"These folks wanted a confrontation, but they ended up worse off than [under] the ad hoc, unarticulated policy that existed."
Scheer believes that if this redaction policy is contested, the government could win. "If you're not a reporter, then people care more about their privacy than access," he said.
"Everyone is terrified about identity theft," he continued. "There have been all sorts of horror stories about the government inadvertently leaking information. And anything the Clerk of the Board agrees to give to one person, they have to give to everyone, including sleazebags who put it into a big database and sell it to spammers and telemarketers."
But Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware, believes that if the case goes to court, the judge would conclude that this information is presumed to be public. "To withhold information, you have to find a specific public interest in keeping it confidential," Francke said.
Francke notes that the CPRA exempts, for example, the home addresses of school district employees, but does not delegate the authority to create new exemptions. "When you have rules that say apples, oranges, and bananas are exempt, that provides evidence that fruit as a general category is not exempt. The example of CPRA exemptions shows they were decided against a background of documented, actual harassment, not the decision of a faceless bureaucrat."
Francke believes public organizing is hindered by the new policy.
"The value of privacy is not one that the government decides," he said. "It's your choice how private you want to be. It's your privacy, not the government's. So unless they give you an informed opt-out choice, then what they are managing is not privacy but government secrecy."
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