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Email and Phone Numbers

Personal Contact and Online Account Information

Certain contact information that individuals provide to government entities for notification purposes or to subscribe to electronic publications are private data. (See Minnesota Statutes, section 13.356.)

Notification Purposes

For the protection to apply, a government entity must offer a voluntary service, such as text message or email alerts, and an individual must request the service.

Examples include these types of activities:

  • Individual requests email messages when there is a snow emergency. 
  • Individual requests text messages when there is a school closure. 
  • Subscription list for electronic periodic publication. 

For the protection to apply, a government entity must offer a voluntary service, such as an email distribution list, and an individual must request the service.

  • Individual signs up on a county's email list for quarterly newsletters. 
  • Individual provides a State agency with an email address to receive legislative updates. 
  • Individual signs up for a police department's weekly crime report statistics.


These types of collections cannot be classified as private data:

  • Data submitted to the Campaign Finance Board under chapter 10A 
  • Email address or phone number provided for making a public comment to a government entity 
  • Email list a state agency may maintain as part of the agency’s rulemaking notification efforts 

Note: Email addresses, not collected for the rulemaking email list, in historic rulemaking files may be protected because of the law’s retroactive change of data classification (i.e. previously public data may change to private data).

Examples of email addresses not covered under the new law

  • Email correspondence (e.g. an email address located on an emailed data request or an email sent asking a question)
  • Email lists an entity creates as part of a program or its work that an individual did not specifically request (e.g. communications about an entity’s programs, such as building contacts, training reminders, or permit renewals)

Other Considerations

  • While the law does not require a Tennessen warning notice, consider whether it is beneficial to alert individuals that collection of their email addresses or phone numbers fall within the scope of the new law.
  • Consider whether to notify individuals on a list if the data are public (e.g. posting notice on the registration website or sending notice to the list).
  • Consider how you describe a list, remembering that an email address or phone number can only be used for the specific purpose for which the individual provided them.
  • Consider communication that happens over social media or in public discussion forums/chat rooms – this is not generally protected because of the known public nature of the activity.
  • Note that names and mailing addresses are not classified as private under this provision.

This law was effective on May 24, 2013. Related data collected prior to that date are also now private.

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