Tennessen Warning Notice

What is a Tennessen warning notice?

The government must give individuals notice when collecting private or confidential information from them. This is referred to as a "Tennessen warning notice." Government may also call it a "privacy notice," a "notice of collection of private/confidential data," or something similar. The purpose of the notice is to enable people to make informed decisions about whether to give information about themselves to the government. (See Minnesota Statutes, section 13.04, subdivision 2.)

What must the notice include?

  • The reason government is collecting the data,
  • How government plans to use the data,
  • Whether the person is legally required to provide the data or may refuse to do so,
  • Consequences if the person provides the data,
  • Consequences if the person does not provide the data, and
  • The identities of people and entities that have access to the data by law. (For example, all notices should include that data may be shared upon court order or provided to the state or legislative auditor.)
  • Note regarding private data on minors: Entities must provide minors with notice that they have the right to request that parental access to private data be denied. Entities may consider including this notice in the Tennessen Warning notice when collecting the data. (See Minnesota Rules 1205.0500.)

When does a government entity not have to give a Tennessen warning notice?

  • The individual volunteers the data, the entity did not ask for it;
  • The data are not about the individual being asked;
  • The data about the individual are public; or
  • The individual is asked to provide criminal investigative data to a law enforcement officer under Minnesota Statutes, section 13.82.

What happens if the government does not provide the notice?

With limited exceptions, a government entity may not collect, store, use, or disseminate private or confidential data for any purpose other than those specified in the Tennessen warning notice, or per section 13.05, subdivision 4. (Advisory Opinion 95-028) If an entity fails to give the Tennessen warning notice, the entity may not use or store the information received for any purpose or must obtain informed consent.

Other considerations

  • A government entity should seek legal advice when developing Tennessen warning notices.
  • A government entity should not try to develop an all-purpose Tennessen warning notice; each notice should be tailored for the specific program or reason for collecting the data.
  • Notices do not need to be in writing. However, government should ask the individual to sign and date the notice, and give her/him a copy as a best practice. (An e-form could provide a way for the recipients to indicate that they have read and understood the notice.)
  • “Reverse Tennessen warning.” While government does not need to give notice when collecting public data, it might consider doing so in some circumstances. For example, data about a member of the public requesting access to public data are public and an entity could explain that to a data requester.
  • Government may only collect data on individuals if it is necessary to administer a program specifically authorized or required by law (see Minnesota Statutes, section 13.05, subdivision 3).
  • Government entities must give a Garrity warning notice when conducting some personnel investigation interviews. This may be combined with a Tennessen warning notice.