The Cincinnati Health Department and The Enquirer will square off in the Ohio Supreme Court today over how to balance privacy rights with the public's right to know.
The fight, among the first of its kind in Ohio, involves federal privacy rules that have triggered two years of legal battles between journalists and public officials across the country.
The Cincinnati dispute arose last year when the newspaper requested records of citations that the health department has issued to property owners for failing to eliminate sources of lead poisoning, such as lead-based paint.
It will be interesting to see how this is decided in the courts. I am torn. On the one hand, this seems like another case of public officials hiding behind HIPAA to avoid public accountablity, and a case of frustrated reporters trying to do their jobs. On the other hand, the children involved certainly have a right to privacy, especially since exposure to lead can have serious, life-long effects, and a prospective employer, for example, might use the information unfairly.