The Act provides that certain types of documents are not open for public inspection or copying. These exceptions must be read narrowly and the requirements of openness otherwise read broadly. Following are the exceptions contained within O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72, but there are other exceptions within Georgia law as well as federal law not specifically mentioned here.
(1) Specifically required by the federal government to be kept confidential;
(2) Medical or veterinary records and similar files, the disclosure of which would be an invasion of personal privacy;
(3) Except as otherwise provided by law, records compiled for law enforcement or prosecution purposes to the extent that production of such records would disclose the identity of a confidential source, disclose confidential investigative or prosecution material which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or persons, or disclose the existence of a confidential surveillance or investigation;
(4) Records of law enforcement, prosecution, or regulatory agencies in any pending investigation or prosecution of criminal or unlawful activity, other than initial police arrest reports and initial incident reports; provided, however, that an investigation or prosecution shall no longer be deemed to be pending when all direct litigation involving said investigation and prosecution has become final or otherwise terminated;
(4.1) Individual Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Reports, except upon the submission of a written statement of need by the requesting party, such statement to be provided to the custodian of records and to set forth the need for the report pursuant to this Code section; provided, however, that any person or entity whose name or identifying information is contained in a Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Report shall be entitled, either personally or through a lawyer or other representative, to receive a copy of such report; and provided, further, that Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Reports shall not be available in bulk for inspection or copying by any person absent a written statement showing the need for each such report pursuant to the requirements of this Code section. For the purposes of this subsection, the term "need" means that the natural person or legal entity who is requesting in person or by representative to inspect or copy the Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Report:
(A) Has a personal, professional, or business connection with a party to the accident;
(B) Owns or leases an interest in property allegedly or actually damaged in the accident;
(C) Was allegedly or actually injured by the accident;
(D) Was a witness to the accident;
(E) Is the actual or alleged insurer of a party to the accident or of property actually or allegedly damaged by the accident;
(F) Is a prosecutor or a publicly employed law enforcement officer;
(G) Is alleged to be liable to another party as a result of the accident;
(H) Is an attorney stating that he or she needs the requested reports as part of a criminal case, or an investigation of a potential claim involving contentions that a roadway, railroad crossing, or intersection is unsafe;
(I) Is gathering information as a representative of a news media organization;
(J) Is conducting research in the public interest for such purposes as accident prevention, prevention of injuries or damages in accidents, determination of fault in an accident or accidents, or other similar purposes; provided, however, this subparagraph will apply only to accident reports on accidents that occurred more than 30 days prior to the request and which shall have the name, street address, telephone number, and driver's license number redacted; or
(K) Is a governmental official, entity, or agency, or an authorized agent thereof, requesting reports for the purpose of carrying out governmental functions or legitimate governmental duties;
(5) Records that consist of confidential evaluations submitted to, or examinations prepared by, a governmental agency and prepared in connection with the appointment or hiring of a public officer or employee; and records consisting of material obtained in investigations related to the suspension, firing, or investigation of complaints against public officers or employees until ten days after the same has been presented to the agency or an officer for action or the investigation is otherwise concluded or terminated, provided that this paragraph shall not be interpreted to make such investigatory records privileged;
(6)(A) Real estate appraisals, engineering or feasibility estimates, or other records made for or by the state or a local agency relative to the acquisition of real property until such time as the property has been acquired or the proposed transaction has been terminated or abandoned; and
(B) Engineers' cost estimates and pending, rejected, or deferred bids or proposals until such time as the final award of the contract is made or the project is terminated or abandoned. The provisions of this subparagraph shall apply whether the bid or proposal is received or prepared by the Department of Transportation pursuant to Article 4 of Chapter 2 of Title 32, by a county pursuant to Article 3 of Chapter 4 of Title 32, by a municipality pursuant to Article 4 of Chapter 4 of Title 32, or by a governmental entity pursuant to Article 2 of Chapter 91 of Title 36;
(7) Notwithstanding any other provision of this article, an agency shall not be required to release those portions of records which would identify persons applying for or under consideration for employment or appointment as executive head of an agency as that term is defined in paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of Code Section 50-14-1, or of a unit of the University System of Georgia; provided, however, that at least 14 calendar days prior to the meeting at which final action or vote is to be taken on the position, the agency shall release all documents which came into its possession with respect to as many as three persons under consideration whom the agency has determined to be the best qualified for the position and from among whom the agency intends to fill the position. Prior to the release of these documents, an agency may allow such a person to decline being considered further for the position rather than have documents pertaining to the person released. In that event, the agency shall release the documents of the next most qualified person under consideration who does not decline the position. If an agency has conducted its hiring or appointment process open to the public, it shall not be required to delay 14 days to take final action on the position. The agency shall not be required to release such records with respect to other applicants or persons under consideration, except at the request of any such person. Upon request, the hiring agency shall furnish the number of applicants and the composition of the list by such factors as race and sex. The agency shall not be allowed to avoid the provisions of this paragraph by the employment of a private person or agency to assist with the search or application process;
(8) Related to the provision of staff services to individual members of the General Assembly by the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office, the Senate Research Office, or the House Research Office, provided that this exception shall not have any application with respect to records related to the provision of staff services to any committee or subcommittee or to any records which are or have been previously publicly disclosed by or pursuant to the direction of an individual member of the General Assembly;
(9) Records that are of historical research value which are given or sold to public archival institutions, public libraries, or libraries of a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia when the owner or donor of such records wishes to place restrictions on access to the records. No restriction on access, however, may extend more than 75 years from the date of donation or sale. This exemption shall not apply to any records prepared in the course of the operation of state or local governments of the State of Georgia;
(10) Records that contain information from the Department of Natural Resources inventory and register relating to the location and character of a historic property or of historic properties as those terms are defined in Code Sections 12-3-50.1 and 12-3-50.2 if the Department of Natural Resources through its Division of Historic Preservation determines that disclosure will create a substantial risk of harm, theft, or destruction to the property or properties or the area or place where the property or properties are located;
(10.1) Records of farm water use by individual farms as determined by water-measuring devices installed pursuant to Code Section 12-5-31 or 12-5-105; provided, however, that compilations of such records for the 52 large watershed basins as identified by the eight-digit United States Geologic Survey hydrologic code or an aquifer that do not reveal farm water use by individual farms shall be subject to disclosure under this article;
(10.2) Agricultural or food system records, data, or information that are considered by the Georgia Department of Agriculture to be a part of the critical infrastructure, provided that nothing in this paragraph shall prevent the release of such records, data, or information to another state or federal agency if the release of such records, data, or information is necessary to prevent or control disease or to protect public health, safety, or welfare. As used in this paragraph, the term "critical infrastructure" shall have the same meaning as in 42 U.S.C. Section 5195c(e). Such records, data, or information shall be subject to disclosure only upon the order of a court of competent jurisdiction;
(10.3) Records, data, or information collected, recorded, or otherwise obtained that is deemed confidential by the Georgia Department of Agriculture for the purposes of the national animal identification system, provided that nothing in this paragraph shall prevent the release of such records, data, or information to another state or federal agency if the release of such records, data, or information is necessary to prevent or control disease or to protect public health, safety, or welfare. As used in this paragraph, the term "national animal identification program" means a national program intended to identify animals and track them as they come into contact with or commingle with animals other than herdmates from their premises of origin. Such records, data, or information shall be subject to disclosure only upon the order of a court of competent jurisdiction;
(11) Records that contain site specific information regarding the occurrence of rare species of plants or animals or the location of sensitive natural habitats on public or private property if the Department of Natural Resources determines that disclosure will create a substantial risk of harm, theft, or destruction to the species or habitats or the area or place where the species or habitats are located; provided, however, that the owner or owners of private property upon which rare species of plants or animals occur or upon which sensitive natural habitats are located shall be entitled to such information pursuant to this article;
(11.1) An individual's social security number and insurance or medical information in personnel records, which may be redacted from such records;
(11.2) Records that would reveal the names, home addresses, telephone numbers, security codes, or any other data or information developed, collected, or received by counties or municipalities in connection with the installation, servicing, maintaining, operating, selling, or leasing of burglar alarm systems, fire alarm systems, or other electronic security systems; provided, however, that initial police reports and initial incident reports shall remain subject to disclosure pursuant to paragraph (4) of this subsection;
(11.3) (A) An individual's social security number, mother's birth name, credit card information, debit card information, bank account information, financial data or information, and insurance or medical information in all records, and if technically feasible at reasonable cost, day and month of birth, which shall be redacted prior to disclosure of any record requested pursuant to this article; provided, however, that such information shall not be redacted from such records if the person or entity requesting such records requests such information in a writing signed under oath by such person or a person legally authorized to represent such entity which states that such person or entity is gathering information as a representative of a news media organization for use in connection with news gathering and reporting; and provided, further, that such access shall be limited to social security numbers and day and month of birth; and provided, further, that this news media organization exception for access to social security numbers and day and month of birth and the other protected information set forth in this subparagraph shall not apply to teachers, employees of a public school, or public employees as set forth in paragraph (13.1) of this subsection. For purposes of this subparagraph, the term "public employee" means any nonelected employee of the State of Georgia or its agencies, departments, or commissions or any county or municipality or its agencies, departments, or commissions.
(B) This paragraph shall have no application to:
(i) The disclosure of information contained in the records or papers of any court or derived therefrom including without limitation records maintained pursuant to Article 9 of Title 11;
(ii) The disclosure of information to a court, prosecutor, or publicly employed law enforcement officer, or authorized agent thereof, seeking records in an official capacity;
(iii) The disclosure of information to a public employee of this state, its political subdivisions, or the United States who is obtaining such information for administrative purposes, in which case, subject to applicable laws of the United States, further access to such information shall continue to be subject to the provisions of this paragraph;
(iv) The disclosure of information as authorized by the order of a court of competent jurisdiction upon good cause shown to have access to any or all of such information upon such conditions as may be set forth in such order;
(v) The disclosure of information to the individual in respect of whom such information is maintained, with the authorization thereof, or to an authorized agent thereof; provided, however, that the agency maintaining such information shall require proper identification of such individual or such individual's agent, or proof of authorization, as determined by such agency;
(vi) The disclosure of the day and month of birth and mother's birth name of a deceased individual;
(vii) The disclosure by an agency of credit or payment information in connection with a request by a consumer reporting agency as that term is defined under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. Section 1681, et seq.);
(viii) The disclosure by an agency of information in its records in connection with the agency's discharging or fulfilling of its duties and responsibilities, including, but not limited to, the collection of debts owed to the agency or individuals or entities whom the agency assists in the collection of debts owed to the individual or entity; or
(ix) The disclosure of information necessary to comply with legal or regulatory requirements or for legitimate law enforcement purposes.
(C) Records and information disseminated pursuant to this paragraph may be used only by the authorized recipient and only for the authorized purpose. Any person who obtains records or information pursuant to the provisions of this paragraph and knowingly and willfully discloses, distributes, or sells such records or information to an unauthorized recipient or for an unauthorized purpose shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature and upon conviction thereof shall be punished as provided in Code Section 17-10-4. Any person injured thereby shall have a cause of action for invasion of privacy. Any prosecution pursuant to this paragraph shall be in accordance with the procedure in subsection (b) of Code Section 50-18-74.
(D) In the event that the custodian of public records protected by this paragraph has good faith reason to believe that a pending request for such records has been made fraudulently, under false pretenses, or by means of false swearing, such custodian shall apply to the superior court of the county in which such records are maintained for a protective order limiting or prohibiting access to such records.
(E) This paragraph shall supplement and shall not supplant, overrule, replace, or otherwise modify or supersede any provision of statute, regulation, or law of the federal government or of this state as now or hereafter amended or enacted requiring, restricting, or prohibiting access to the information identified in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph and shall constitute only a regulation of the methods of such access where not otherwise provided for, restricted, or prohibited;
(12) Public records containing information that would disclose or might lead to the disclosure of any component in the process used to execute or adopt an electronic signature, if such disclosure would or might cause the electronic signature to cease being under the sole control of the person using it. For purposes of this paragraph, the term "electronic signature" has the same meaning as that term is defined in Code Section 10-12-3;
(13) Records that would reveal the home address or telephone number, social security number, or insurance or medical information of employees of the Department of Revenue, law enforcement officers, judges, scientists employed by the Division of Forensic Sciences of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, correctional employees, and prosecutors or identification of immediate family members or dependents thereof;
(13.1) Records that reveal the home address, the home telephone number, or the social security number of or insurance or medical information about public employees or teachers and employees of a public school. For the purposes of this paragraph, the term "public school" means any school which is conducted within this state and which is under the authority and supervision of a duly elected county or independent board of education;
(13.2) Records that are kept by the probate court pertaining to guardianships and conservatorships except as provided in Code Section 29-9-18;
(14) Acquired by an agency for the purpose of establishing or implementing, or assisting in the establishment or implementation of, a carpooling or ridesharing program, to the extent such records would reveal the name, home address, employment address, home telephone number, employment telephone number, or hours of employment of any individual or would otherwise identify any individual who is participating in, or who has expressed an interest in participating in, any such program. As used in this paragraph, the term "carpooling or ridesharing program" means and includes, but is not limited to, the formation of carpools, vanpools, or buspools, the provision of transit routes, rideshare research, and the development of other demand management strategies such as variable working hours and telecommuting;
(15)(A) Records, the disclosure of which would compromise security against sabotage or criminal or terrorist acts and the nondisclosure of which is necessary for the protection of life, safety, or public property, which shall be limited to the following:
(i) Security plans and vulnerability assessments for any public utility, technology infrastructure, building, facility, function, or activity in effect at the time of the request for disclosure or pertaining to a plan or assessment in effect at such time;
(ii) Any plan for protection against terrorist or other attacks, which plan depends for its effectiveness in whole or in part upon a lack of general public knowledge of its details;
(iii) Any document relating to the existence, nature, location, or function of security devices designed to protect against terrorist or other attacks, which devices depend for their effectiveness in whole or in part upon a lack of general public knowledge; and
(iv) Any plan, blueprint, or other material which if made public could compromise security against sabotage, criminal, or terroristic acts.
(B) In the event of litigation challenging nondisclosure pursuant to this paragraph by an agency of a document covered by this paragraph, the court may review the documents in question in camera and may condition, in writing, any disclosure upon such measures as the court may find to be necessary to protect against endangerment of life, safety, or public property.
(C) As used in divisions (i) and (iv) of subparagraph (A) of this paragraph, the term "activity" means deployment or surveillance strategies, actions mandated by changes in the federal threat level, motorcades, contingency plans, proposed or alternative motorcade routes, executive and dignitary protection, planned responses to criminal or terrorist actions, after-action reports still in use, proposed or actual plans and responses to bioterrorism, and proposed or actual plans and responses to requesting and receiving the National Pharmacy Stockpile;
(16) Unless the request is made by the accused in a criminal case or by his or her attorney, public records of an emergency 9-1-1 system, as defined in paragraph (3) of Code Section 46-5-122, containing information which would reveal the name, address, or telephone number of a person placing a call to a public safety answering point, which information may be redacted from such records if necessary to prevent the disclosure of the identity of a confidential source, to prevent disclosure of material which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or persons, or to prevent the disclosure of the existence of a confidential surveillance or investigation;
(17) Records of athletic or recreational programs, available through the state or a political subdivision of the state, that include information identifying a child or children 12 years of age or under by name, address, telephone number, or emergency contact, unless such identifying information has been redacted;
(18) Records of the State Road and Tollway Authority which would reveal the financial accounts or travel history of any individual who is a motorist upon such toll project. Such financial records shall include but not be limited to social security number, home address, home telephone number, e-mail address, credit or debit card information, and bank account information but shall not include the user's name;
(19) Records maintained by public postsecondary educational institutions in this state and associated foundations of such institutions that contain personal information concerning donors or potential donors to such institutions or foundations; provided, however, that the name of any donor and the amount of donation made by such donor shall be subject to disclosure if such donor or any entity in which such donor has a substantial interest transacts business with the public postsecondary educational institution to which the donation is made within three years of the date of such donation. As used in this paragraph, the term "transact business" means to sell or lease any personal property, real property, or services on behalf of oneself or on behalf of any third party as an agent, broker, dealer, or representative in an amount in excess of $10,000.00 in the aggregate in a calendar year and the term "substantial interest" means the direct or indirect ownership of more than 25 percent of the assets or stock of an entity; or
(20) Records of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority or of any other transit system that is connected to that system's TransCard or SmartCard system which would reveal the financial records or travel history of any individual who is a purchaser of a TransCard or SmartCard or similar fare medium. Such financial records shall include, but not be limited to, social security number, home address, home telephone number, e-mail address, credit or debit card information, and bank account information but shall not include the user's name.
In addition, the Open Records Act does not apply to trade secrets, certain research projects, some testing materials, firearms licensing information, information covered under the attorney-client privilege, material that is attorney work product and information relating to certain tax matters made confidential under state or federal law.
O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72 (current through the 2007 legislative session).