In response to a 2016 FOIA request seeking records relating
to the requestor’s criminal case, the Chicago Police Department disclosed
certain records subject to certain redactions. A few years later, the requestor
submitted another FOIA request seeking records and statements attributed to a
specific witness that testified at the requestor’s criminal trial. Attached to
the second FOIA request was a notarized statement from the witness consenting
to disclosure of her personal information to the requestor. After CPD refused to
disclose the private information of the witness, the requestor sued CPD alleging that
it violated FOIA by withholding the private information because the
witness provided her written consent to disclose her personal information. The
circuit court ruled in favor of the City, finding that CPD’s redactions were

After the requestor appealed, the Appellate Court in Brewer
v. City of Chicago
agreed with the circuit court. The Court
noted that “personal information” and “private information” are not
interchangeable terms under FOIA, and rejected the requestor’s argument that
CPD was required to disclose the phone number of the witness because the witness
consented to disclosure of her personal information. Instead, the Court held that a personal phone number is “private information” that is
expressly exempt from disclosure under FOIA exemption 7(1)(b). Unlike “personal
information” under FOIA exemption 7(1)(c), which can be disclosed if “consented
to in writing by the individual subjects of the information,” FOIA authorized
CPD to redact the private information exempt under a different FOIA exemption (section 7(1)(b)), even if the person who is the subject
of the information that is being requested provides their written consent.

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink