A law going into effect Aug. 1 will shield the personal information of certain officials, including judges, law enforcement officers, and legislators from being released in public records.
The bill, signed by Gov. Kay Ivey and introduced by Rep. Shane Stringer (R-Citronelle), extends protective cover on data such as home addresses, phone numbers, and driver’s license numbers. Stringer expressed concerns over individuals exploiting public records to locate and harass law enforcement officers and public servants.
Most importantly, it created a legal offense for “doxing” – the online dissemination of private or identifying data with malicious intent.
Under the new law, doxing is defined by three key criteria: an individual electronically publishes or posts another person’s identifying information; the person whose information is exposed is harassed, harmed, or hindered in their government function; and the person disseminating the data intended it to be used for such disruptive purposes.
The legislation also stipulates significant penalties for offenders. A first violation constitutes a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, with subsequent violations deemed Class C felonies, carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) moved for the unanimous amendment to include lawmakers as well as law enforcement.
“We make a ruling on a controversial issue and you have some overzealous people who have a set opinion about it and want to express it in an unsafe manner,” Smitherman said. “That’s why we have security.”
Authorities from across the country have faced weeks of harassment and intimidation from protestors at their doorstep after seeing their personal information detailed leaked online.
The new law states that state and local agencies and departments shall make a request form available “that allows a state legislator or law enforcement officer or employee to request the redaction of personal identifying information from the records of the department or agency.”
Judges, district attorneys, investigators, sheriffs, jailers and law enforcement officers can request the redaction of identifying information from any document prior to disclosure.
Grayson Everett is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270 for coverage of the 2023 legislative session.