Washington’s Shield Law
Washington’s Shield Law is intended to protect against efforts to “obtain information that would tend to identify a source of news or information” held by “news media” and to protect non-news media transactions with news media that could also identify a source. RCW 5.68.010(1)(a). “News media” includes “any entity that is in the regular business of news gathering and disseminating news or information to the public by any means” (such as Sqoop) and journalists. RCW 5.68.010(5). The law works by: (1) letting news media or journalists assert the statute’s protections; and also (2) by requiring third parties holding information of news media or journalists who get requests or subpoenas for such information to give notice to the affected news media or journalists of the efforts to get that information so the affected media or journalists can assert their privacy rights and seek court protection from the party seeking the protected information.
The Washington Court of Appeals applied the Shield Law in early 2016 and affirmed that the statute’s language is “very broad. It protects against disclosure of the identity of a source of any news or information. It also protects against the disclosure of any information that would tend to identify a source.” Republic of Kazakhstan v. Does 1-100 (Wa. Ct. App. No.73391-5-I, Feb. 22, 2016), ¶ 36. Based on that broad protection, the appeals court reversed the trial court’s issuance of a subpoena directed at a website operator. The Republic of Kazakhastan was trying to obtain a journalist’s identity from the website operator in order to locate an alleged hacker of government computers. In short, the appeal decision shows the law has teeth and will be applied even against a subpoena which was initially authorized in a federal court, to be applied by a Washington court.
The full decision of the case can be read here and the full text of the Shield Law can be read here.
Information We Collect
We collect “Non-Personal Information” and “Personal Information.” Non-Personal Information includes information that cannot be used to personally identify you, such as anonymous usage data, general demographic information we may collect, referring/exit pages and URLs, platform types, preferences you submit and preferences that are generated based on the data you submit and number of clicks. Personal Information includes your email, your name, the outlet you work for, your beat, and other information which you submit to us through the registration process at the Site. Additionally, your alert settings and search history are associated with you. To the extent such non-personal information might disclose the identity of a source, it should be protected by the Shield Law.
Information collected via technology:
To use the Service you do not need to submit any Personal Information at this time. But after a certain number of searches, or to use some parts of the Service thereafter, such as search and Docket Watch Alerts, you need to submit Personal Information to create your unique Journalist User account.
To remember your Journalist User or user name and login information on a given device;
To track various analytics (such as Google Analytics and Twitter Analytics) to help us improve and understand how people use the Service; and
To remember information about your browser and your preferences.
The Company may use both persistent and session cookies; persistent cookies remain on your computer after you close your session and until you delete them, while session cookies expire when you close your browser. We do not set any third-party tracking cookies for items such as advertisement delivery.
Information you provide us by registering for a Journalist User account:
Information you provide us by using the Service:
You have the ability to post information through the Service, such as feedback or other comments and opinions. Please be advised that any personal information that you voluntarily post to any public forum or to any area where third parties may legally access it, will NOT be considered confidential in any way, and the Company will not have any obligation to protect it in a secured system or obtain your consent to its disclosure, as you will have made the decision to publicly post it. However, at your request, we will be happy to change it, remove it, or restrict access to it (subject to technical feasibility) in order to protect the integrity of the Personal Information.
We may also collect individual user information you provide to us offline. When you contact us offline, you will be asked to provide consent to the collection of Personal Information if your Personal Information will help us deliver the information, products, or services you require.
How We Use and Share Information
In general, the Personal Information you provide to us is used to help us communicate with you. For example, we use Personal Information to solicit feedback from users, provide technical support, and inform users about promotional offers including messages from advertisers and publicists. We will also use the personally identifiable information directly submitted by you for the purpose which you have provided it, for example, to respond for a request for information or answer questions you might have about the Service. We provide your information to third parties only for the purposes to which you have consented, and we require such third parties to keep your information confidential.
Situations in which we share your information:
How We Protect Information
We implement security measures designed to protect your information from unauthorized access. Your account is protected by your account password and we urge you to take steps to keep your Personal Information safe by not disclosing your password and by logging out of your account after each use. We further protect your information from potential security breaches by implementing certain technological security measures including encryption and firewalls. However, these measures do not guarantee that your information will not be accessed, disclosed, altered or destroyed by breach of such firewalls and secure server software. By using our Service, you acknowledge that you understand and agree to assume these risks.
Your Rights Regarding the Use of Your Personal Information
A situation may arise where you desire to have all of your Personal Information that is contained in the Company’s records deleted or destroyed. If this is what you wish, please contact our Privacy Officer, who will take care of removing your Personal Information from all of the Company’s records. However, there may be situations where we are obligated to retain one archival copy of your information to allow us to comply with laws or respond to legal processes. We will inform you of all such situations, and will only use your retained Personal Information to the limited extent necessary to comply with such laws or respond to legal processes.
Links to Other Websites
The Company does not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 13. In the event that we learn that we have collected any Personal Information from a child under the age of 13 without verification of parental consent, we will delete that information from our database.
If you are located outside of the United States, please note that the information you provide to us will be transferred to the United States and subject to the laws of the United States and Washington State. By using this Service, you consent to this transfer.
Last Updated: August 4, 2016