US man posts county e-mail records in privacy fight

He wants sensitive data expunged from county docs

A US resident is posting the internal e-mail records of various officials in the Pulaski County clerk's office on his Web site in retaliation for what he calls the county's refusal to remove certain public documents containing Social Security Numbers from its Web site.

The e-mails are considered public records and were obtained by Bill Philips, a native of North Little Rock, under Arkansas' Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). They represent a year's worth of e-mails sent and received by nine officials at the county office, including the county clerk himself.

Philips started posting the e-mails on his Web site,, about a week ago, after County Clerk Pat O'Brien refused to remove tens of thousands of circuit court records containing Social Security Numbers and other personal data from the county government Web site. That data included bank account numbers, birth dates and check images.

The county site had earlier made available public real estate records belonging to county residents, thousands of which contained the same kind of personal information, Philips said. At least one of the records posted online with sensitive information belonged to Philips, who described himself as a flight instructor.

Online access to Pulaski County's real estate records was disabled in July at the request of the state Attorney General, who has said that sensitive information needs to be redacted from them before they can go online again.

But attempts to get O'Brien to do the same with circuit court records have been so far unsuccessful, prompting Philips to act. For the most part, the e-mails -- which number in the thousands, according to Philips -- appear largely to be innocuous office communications covering mundane issues such as daily staff attendance details and meetings.

A few, among the handful of e-mails perused by Computerworld, appeared to deal with potentially sensitive issues. One e-mail, for instance, involved the appropriate salary levels for two recently demoted employees. Another involved an employee who quit her job at least partly out of safety concerns related to a stranger in the parking lot.

Ironically, many of the e-mails posted online have a disclaimer at the bottom stating that the information in them is "confidential" and "proprietary" while at the same time being subject to review by third parties at any time.

In addition to the e-mails, Philips has also posted on his site a list of all the employees working at the county clerk's office, together with their dates of hire and current salaries.

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