The federal laws that control the information a state can disclose about its citizens are usually meant to protect individual privacy rights, but many open government experts say states are interpreting the laws too broadly and it is interfering with journalists’ newsgathering ability.

The federal privacy protection laws — including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which applies to student records; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which deals with health information and medical records; and the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), which deals with records kept by state departments of motor vehicles — can hinder reporters’ ability to obtain records under state freedom-of-information laws.

FERPA, HIPAA & DPPA: How federal privacy laws affect newsgathering

© 2010 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Written and researched by Miranda Fleschert.

This guide was funded by a grant from the McCormick Foundation.