Records Posted Online Contain Redactions Not Present In Filings Requested In Person Or By Mail

Previously available only in person, White House Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure reports (SF 278s) are now available via e-mail.  By following this link on the White House website, anyone can submt a request for a White House official's Statement of Economic Interest (SEI).  The requested forms will then be e-mailed as soon as possible. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also recently authorized the creation of an electronic database for SEIs filed by California executive branch officials.

As records become more readily available from local, state and the national government, the debate over what to leave in and what to redact from these forms becomes increasingly pertinent.  Many government entities are removing personal information from the versions of public records they post electronically (read about practical obscurity in our previous blog post).  This information cannot legally be removed from records requested via written requests or picked up in person.  With President Obama's call for increased transparency and the numerous online databases to come, a standard for redaction will need to be developed.  Until then, keep in mind that copies of records posted online are not going to be as complete (due to redactions) as records obtained over the counter or through the mail.