Wisconsin's Public Liberal Arts College

Response to Subpoenas


Information and Instructional Technology Services

Response to Subpoenas

University of Wisconsin-Superior

Policy Subject:  Policy on Response to Subpoenas, Search Warrants, and other Official Requests for Confidential Information

Cabinet Division:  All

 I.   Background and Purpose

The University of Wisconsin-Superior Library and Information Technology staff may receive a request from a private individual or local, state or federal law enforcement agency for information about users of the library, computers, or network.   This information includes materials checked out, online services used, requests for materials from other libraries, subscriber information, email messages, or internet sites visited.  This type of information is confidential and may only be released under very specific circumstances discussed below.

II.  Constraints

This policy addresses concerns related to access to information requests.  Additional policies are needed to address the retention of information.

Other concerns are related to the request for information made beyond normal office hours when some of the facilities are open for use.

III.  Definitions

Unit Director--the Directors in the Hill Library, Faculty Development Center, Computing and Media Services, Network & Programming Services, ResNet.  

IV.   Policy Statements

4.1  Requests from a private individual:  Confidential information will not be released to a private individual who is not the “owner” of the information.  You may release information to the “owner” once you have verified their identity.   You may not release information to any other individual including spouses/partners or family members.  Notify your supervisor immediately if you receive a request for information about someone else’s library, computer, or network activities.

4.2  Requests from a law enforcement officer without any written documentation (i.e., subpoena or search warrant):  You are not obligated to provide any information in response to this type of request and to protect the confidentiality of users, no information should be provided.  Refer the requesting officer to your supervisor.  The supervisor should immediately contact the unit Director who in turn will contact the Provost and UW-System Legal Counsel.  If the Director is not available the supervisor may contact the Provost directly.

4.3  Request from a law enforcement officer with a subpoena:  UW-Superior Library and Information Technology offices will observe the following procedures if the FBI or other law enforcement officer presents a subpoena:

  • Refer the requesting officer to your supervisor who must contact the unit Director immediately.  Do not provide any of the requested information.
  • The Director will contact the Provost who then contacts UW-Superior Legal Counsel for a review of the document’s legal sufficiency, which will determine whether we release any information (inform the law enforcement office of this procedure).
  • During evening and weekend hours when the Director is not available contact the Director’s designee. 

4.4  Request from a law enforcement officer with a written warrant for search and seizure:  You need to comply with this request immediately upon presentation of the warrant.  If paper documents or computer hard drives are part of the warrant, law enforcement officers are empowered to remove those items immediately without the Library, Information Technology, or Legal Counsel’s permission.  Do not interfere with any officer executing such a warrant, but inform the officer that you understand that he or she must leave an inventory of what is removed.  Contact your supervisor immediately and inform she or he of the search warrant.  The supervisor should contact the unit Director who will contact the Provost who contact System Legal Counsel.  Be aware that when a search warrant is executed, a “gag order” may also be invoked, which means that staff may be forbidden to discuss or publicize outside of the unit that fact that a search warrant was executed.  Legal Counsel will provide further instructions to the staff on appropriate actions.

The state statues on library resources and privacy, Wisconsin Statute 43.30, states “…the documents or other materials, resources or shuttle services may not be disclosed except by courts order or to persons acting within the scope of the duties in the administration of the library or library system, to persons authorized by the individual to inspect such records…”  Under certain circumstances federal law may supersede state law.

4.5  Emergency disclosure of IT communications:  if in the normal course of business you observe what you reasonably believe to be a threat of imminent danger to life and limb, call Campus Safety immediately.  Following that call, contact your supervisor, who will contact the unit Director.  The Director should inform the Provost.

April, 2003

Adapted from UW-Milwaukee Libraries


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