Government Data

Government Runs on Information

Government collects and uses information in its work on behalf of the public. This information, or government data, is anything in recorded form, such as email, draft documents, correspondence, and reports. Government data can be recorded on paper or electronically, in photographs, on DVD's, in videotapes, etc.

Government must keep records of its official activities, which vary depending on the entity's mission and responsibilities. Government must maintain its official records according to a records retention schedule. Official records can be destroyed only according to a schedule or with special permission. Some government data are official records while some are not.

Data Classification

The general rule of the Data Practices Act is that all government data are presumed to be public. Anyone can have public data for any reason.

However, the Minnesota Legislature, by passing a law, can make data not public. In addition, the Commissioner of Administration can temporarily make data not public until the Legislature can act.

While government data are presumed to be public, state or federal law may classify data as not public or limit access. Examples of some data that are not public at certain times and under certain circumstances include:

  • Certain data about government employees
  • Welfare data
  • Active criminal investigative data