Firm News, Advocate's Journal

Personal Identifying Information is Exempt from FOIA

The South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed a trial court decision that ordered the City of Columbia to disclose the home addresses, personal telephone numbers, and personal email addresses for applicants who applied for the position of city manager. Plaintiff sent the City a Freedom of Information Act request for all materials relating to the final three applicants for a city manager position. The City provided the requested documents but redacted, among other things, the home addresses, telephone numbers, personal email addresses, and driver’s license numbers of the applicants. Plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action contending that the City violated the FOIA by redacting this information.

The court of appeals found that South Carolina Code section 30-4-40(a)(2) (2007) of FOIA (the “privacy exemption”) exempts from disclosure personal information “where the public disclosure thereof would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy.” Although the privacy exemption does not list the type of information that should be classified as personal or private, the court noted that under the Family Privacy Protection Act, S.C. Code Ann. § 30-2-30 et seq. (Supp. 2014), the General Assembly has recognized home addresses and telephone numbers as information entitled to protection as personal privacy.  From this, the court concluded that home addresses, personal telephone numbers, and email addresses of applicants for government jobs is information in which the applicants have a privacy interest under FOIA, and thus is information exempt from disclosure under FOIA.  Glassmeyer v. City of Columbia, Op. No. 5347 (S.C. Ct. App. Sept. 2, 2015) (Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 34).