July 17, 2001
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The
ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.
I have received your letter in which you sought assistance in obtaining your daughter's
address from the Department of Correctional Services and requested "copies of the Freedom of
In this regard, I point out that the Committee on Open Government is authorized to provide
advice concerning the Freedom of Information Law and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. The
Committee is not empowered to enforce those statutes or to compel an agency to grant or deny
access to records. However, based on a review of your correspondence, I offer the following
As a general matter, the Freedom of Information Law is based upon a presumption of access.
Stated differently, all records of an agency are available, except to the extent that records or portions
thereof fall within one or more grounds for denial appearing in §87(2)(a) through (i) of the Law.
Also pertinent under the circumstances is the Personal Privacy Protection Law, which deals
in part with the disclosure of records or personal information by state agencies concerning data
subjects. A "data subject" is "any natural person about whom personal information has been
collected by an agency" [Personal Privacy Protection Law, §92(3)]. "Personal information" is
defined to mean "any information concerning a data subject which, because of name, number,
symbol, mark or other identifier, can be used to identify that data subject" [§92(7)]. For purposes
of that statute, the term "record" is defined to mean "any item, collection or grouping of personal
information about a data subject which is maintained and is retrievable by use of the name or other
identifier of the data subject" [§92(9)].
With respect to disclosure, §96(1) of the Personal Privacy Protection Law states that "No
agency may disclose any record or personal information", except in conjunction with a series of
exceptions that follow. One of those exceptions involves a situation in which a record is "subject
to article six of this chapter [the Freedom of Information Law], unless disclosure of such information
would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy as defined in paragraph (a) of
subdivision two of section eighty-nine of this chapter." Section 89(2-a) of the Freedom of
Information Law states that "Nothing in this article shall permit disclosure which constitutes an
unwarranted invasion of personal privacy as defined in subdivision two of this section if such
disclosure is prohibited under section ninety-six of this chapter." Therefore, if a state agency cannot
disclose records pursuant to §96 of the Personal Protection Law, it is precluded from disclosing
under the Freedom of Information Law.
The Freedom of Information Law specifies that home addresses pertaining to public
employees need not be disclosed [ see §89(7)]. Further, it has been held that the home addresses of
others, persons who are not public employees, may be withheld on the ground that disclosure would
constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy [see American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
v. Siebert, 442 NYS 2d 855 (1981), Empire Realty Corp. v. NYS Division of the Lottery, 657 NYS
2d 504, 230 AD 2d 270 (1997), Joint Industry Board of Electrical Industry v. Nolan, 159 AD 2d 241
Lastly, enclosed please find the document you requested this office to return, and copies of
the Freedom of Information Law and the Personal Privacy Protection Law.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
David M. Treacy