You can do the wrong thing even for what sounds like a good reason. Just take a look at what the Maine Department of Public Safety has in mind for the upcoming legislative session.

The department has proposed a bill that would make it more difficult for the public to access certain data from 911 emergency calls: personal medical information, as well as information about sexual assault and domestic violence. The bill, which has yet to be drafted, is titled “An Act to Protect the Privacy and Dignity of People who Call E-9-1-1 for Help,” and it is intended, officials say, to protect members of the public in traumatic circumstances.

While that is a good reason for a law, lawmakers should put intentions aside and take a hard look at the proposal would actually do.

It would make it much harder for the public to review transcripts of 911 calls, even after they have been scrubbed of identifying information. This law would block the public from observing the actions of a very powerful arm of government and evaluating its performance.

Police, fire and emergency responders make life-and-death decisions. Like all human beings, they at times make mistakes, and we all should be able to learn from those mistakes. We can’t do that if they do their work in private.

Protecting the privacy of individuals who call for help is a noble goal, but protecting the privacy of the agencies that they call is not. It is an invitation for trouble.

Laws such as the state Freedom of Access Act and the federal Freedom of Information Act were created to make government more accountable to the people. Giving the public access to information is the antidote to government abuses that could occur when officials believe that no one is watching. Any limits on the public’s right to know should be handled with great care.

This is already not an unlimited right, but rather than make whole categories of information off limits, government agencies are required to presume that the records are public, and protect the confidential information that should not be revealed.

According to current law, confidential information includes names, addresses, telephone numbers and certain medical information of emergency callers. Recordings of the calls are not available for public review, only transcripts. Excising the identifying information from transcripts should be enough to protect privacy. If there are specific unique circumstances in a case that require even more protection, public safety officials can go to court and explain why the protections in the law are not enough.

Ultimately, no government agency should be allowed to police itself, not even the police. Public oversight is an important check against overreach and abuse of power.

Privacy is rapidly eroding in America, as government and private entities become increasingly able to intrude on our electronic interactions. But concerns about protecting the public’s privacy should not be used to help the government operate in the dark.

The right-to-know laws were passed for the right reasons and have had a positive effect on the way our institutions operate. We should not let that right be weakened, no matter how good the reason for doing it sounds.

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