April 20, 1993
Mr. Robert W. Reninger
250 Knollwood Road
White Plains, NY 10607
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to
issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is
based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence,
unless otherwise indicated.
Dear Mr. Reninger:
I have received your letter of April 3 in which you asked how
the Freedom of Information Law relates to "public/semi-public data
bases such as PALS."
Having reviewed the correspondence attached to your letter, I
contacted Westchester County in an effort to learn more of the PALS
or MPALS system. As I understand the system, it consists of a
series of databases, including categories of library materials,
indices to various kinds of information, and County data.
Information contained within some of the databases is public and is
available through a limited number of "ports" or terminals located
at the White Plains Public Library and the Westchester Community
College, for example. However, there may be other databases or
aspects of data within them that would not be available to the
public. It is assumed in those instances that security measures
have been taken to prevent unauthorized access to the data, i.e.,
by means of establishment of access codes.
It is my understanding that the public data within the system
is available, as described above, at various locations. If your
question is whether the contents of the system must be made
available to the public at remote locations, such as their homes,
through the use of a personal computer and a modem, I do not
believe that the Freedom of Information Law as it currently exists
would require that kind of remote access. Agencies subject to the
Freedom of Information Law are required to disclose records at
governmental sites or to transmit records by mail, for instance.
In my opinion, an agency would not be obliged to make records or
data available under the Freedom of Information Law through
electronic means to remote locations.
If I have misunderstood your inquiry, please feel free to
I hope that I have been of some assistance.
Robert J. Freeman