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Government Survey Data

Are responses to surveys subject to the Data Practices Act?

Yes. All data that government collects, creates, and maintains are governed by the Data Practices Act. So, when government conducts a survey and collects, creates, and maintains data in connection with the survey, those data are subject to the requirements of the Data Practices Act.

Are responses to surveys in the hands of a government contractor subject to the Data Practices Act?

Yes. When a private entity contracts with government to conduct a survey or perform other duties related to a survey, such as compilation of information, data the private entity collects, creates, and maintains related to the contracted survey work are subject to the requirements of the Data Practices Act (See Minnesota Statutes, section 13.05, subdivision 11.).

Are responses to surveys public or not public?

  • Certain data about government employees: Minnesota Statutes, section 13.43, subdivision 4, protects all data about government employees not listed in subdivision 2. Because there are restrictions on who gets access to not public data, it is important for a government entity to know which survey response data about employees data are public and which are not.
  • Certain data about government employees they submit to a government entity as part of the entity’s self-evaluation effort: Language in Minnesota Statutes, section 13.43, subdivision 7a, applies to situations in which an entity has requested suggestions from all employees on ways to cut costs, make government more efficient, or improve the operation of government. An employee who is identified in a suggestion, has access to all data in the suggestion except the identity of the other employee making the suggestion.
  • Certain data collected in surveys conducted by cities and housing and redevelopment authorities: Minnesota Statutes, section 13.59, subdivision 1, provides that the names and addresses of individuals and the legal descriptions of property owned by individuals are private data. Subdivision 2 provides that the names, addresses, and legal descriptions of business properties and the commercial use of the property are nonpublic to the extent disclosure of the use would identify a particular business.
  • Certain data collected by the Management Analysis & Development Division (MAD) of Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB): Minnesota Statutes, section 13.64(c), provides that the following data are private: identifying data on individuals who supply needed information for a report and who would not have provided the information without an assurance from MAD that their data would be protected.
  • Certain Minnesota Department of Transportation survey response data: Minnesota Statutes, section 13.72, subdivision 14(a), provides that names, home addresses except for zip codes, home email addresses, and home telephone numbers are private data. Subdivision 14(b) provides that business names, business addresses except for zip codes, business email addresses, and business telephone numbers are nonpublic data.

If a Minnesota government entity knows that some of the survey response data will be private, does it have to give the responder a Tennessen warning notice at the time of collection?

Yes. For more information about Tennessen warning notices, see Minnesota Statutes, section 13.04, subdivision 2.

Are there limitations on the types of survey data that a Minnesota government entity can collect?

Yes. A government entity can collect data on individuals only if necessary to administer or manage a program that is authorized by state law or local government, or that is mandated by the federal government (See Minnesota Statutes, section 13.05, subdivision 3.).

What else should be considered when planning a survey?

Anonymity. The terms anonymous and anonymity have no specific meaning under Chapter 13 so that promises of anonymity for survey respondents are not appropriate. As discussed above, the issue of who gets access to government data is determined by Minnesota law.

Confidentiality. Used in its colloquial sense, the term confidentiality has many meanings. Confidential, as the term is used in Chapter 13, is a specific kind of not public data. Therefore, unless Minnesota law provides that survey data are confidential, promises of confidentiality are not appropriate (For more information about confidential data, see Minnesota Statutes, section 13.02, subdivision 3.).

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