Public Records Search

Although public records are records of public business, they are not necessarily available without restriction, although Freedom of Information legislation (FOI) that has been gradually introduced in many jurisdictions since the 1960s has made access easier. Each government has policies and regulations that govern the availability of information contained in public records. A common restriction is that data about a person is not normally available to others; for example, the California Public Records Act (PRA) states that "except for certain explicit exceptions, personal information maintained about an individual may not be disclosed without the person's consent".

In the United Kingdom, Cabinet papers were subject to the thirty-year rule: until the introduction of FOI legislation, Cabinet papers were not available for thirty years; some information could be withheld for longer. As of 2011 the rule still applies to some information, such as minutes of Cabinet meetings.

Some companies provide access, for a fee, to many public records available on the Internet. Many of them specialize in particular types of information, while some offer access to different types of record, typically to professionals in various fields. Some companies sell software with a promise of unlimited access to public records, but may provide nothing more than basic information on how to access already available and generally free public websites.

Each year news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested groups sponsor "Sunshine Week." Sunshine Week occurs in mid-March, coinciding with James Madison's birthday and National Freedom of Information Day on the 16th.[5] The purpose of the week is to highlight the idea that "government functions best when it operates in the open."

In many states, state legislatures are often exempt from public-records laws that apply to state executive officials and local officials. In 2016, the Associated Press made a request for the emails and daily schedules of state legislative leaders (speakers of state Houses and presidents of state Senates) in all 50 states; a majority denied the request.