Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest v. Department of Public Safety
A preliminary step toward data-driven accountability for government agencies is knowing what information an agency collects regarding its operations. The Department of Public Safety maintains at least two databases that track information related to incarcerated individuals. The Law Center requested the data dictionaries for OffenderTrak and PSD’s in-house data system to better understand what data PSD collects. The request solely concerned the data infrastructure (e.g., the data fields that PSD used) and did not ask for any of the actual data about incarcerated individuals that PSD maintained. PSD refused to disclose information arguing that disclosure would frustrate a legitimate government function because it was proprietary and would create security risks.
PSD subsequently released a comprehensive list of the data that it collects and tracks in the OffenderTrak and in-house databases.