Under the Data Practices Act (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13), you have the right to request information from a government entity. This guide explains the process for doing so. If you are seeking information about you (in data practices terms you then are the data subject), you have the right to access data about yourself and your minor child.
Identify the Responsible Authority
Before making your request, contact the government entity that has the information you would like to request and ask for the name of the person who is the “responsible authority.” Unless the government entity has procedures that direct you to make your request to a different person, you should submit your request directly to the responsible authority.
- State agencies: the responsible authority is the commissioner, chief executive officer, or individual appointed by the agency’s governing body.
- Cities or school districts: the responsible authority is the employee appointed by the city or school district’s governing body (such as the city council or school board).
- Counties: each elected official (sheriff, county auditor, etc.) is the responsible authority for her/his office. A county governing body must appoint an employee to be the responsible authority for information maintained outside of the county elected official’s office. The responsible authority for a county social services office is the director of that office.
- Constitutional offices: the constitutional officer (attorney general, state auditor, etc.) is the responsible authority for her/his office.
Ask about access procedures for information requests
Ask the government entity about its procedures for accessing government information. The entity may have procedures requiring your request be in writing, or on a specific form that they have developed. The entity’s procedures may also direct you to make your request to an individual other than the responsible authority depending on what type of information you are requesting. If the entity does not provide you with access procedures, you should always make your request directly to the responsible authority. If you are the data subject, the entity is required under law to request proper identification before you can access private data about yourself.
Make your request under the Data Practices Act (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13)
In your request, state that you are requesting information under the Data Practices Act (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13). This will let the government entity know that the Data Practices Act governs its response.
Request information rather than asking questions
Under the Data Practices Act, the government entity is required to respond if you ask to inspect or get copies of information. The first statement below is an example of a request for information which the entity must respond to. The second statement is not a request for information so any response the government entity makes is not covered by the Data Practices Act.
- I would like to inspect all data about why the county board decided to end the park program.
- Why did the county board decide to end the park program?
In addition, your request should include a clear description of the information you are requesting and whether you would like to inspect (look at) the information, or if your request is for copies. You can inspect for free, but you may be charged for copies.
If you are not the data subject, the entity is required to respond to your request in an appropriate and prompt manner within a reasonable amount of time. The entity also cannot require you to identify yourself or ask why you are requesting the information.
If you are the data subject, the entity is required to respond to your request immediately, if possible, or within ten business days of the request.