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This Note argues that Exemption 7(C) of the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), which exempts from disclosure information compiled for law enforcement purposes that "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy," should be categorically applied to mug shots. Part I of this Note explores the recognition of a privacy right and the regulation of public records in the United States, with a focus on FOIA. Part II discusses the conflicting viewpoints held by the circuit courts that have decided whether or not Exemption 7(C) applies to mug shots. Each court analyzed whether a personal privacy interest is implicit in a mug shot and whether the public has a substantial interest in disclosure of mug shots. Then, Part III emphasizes that, by analyzing FOIA's legislative history and how other courts have interpreted the Exemption 7(C) privacy interest, a privacy interest exists in mug shots. Part III also discusses why policy considerations strengthen the argument for keeping mug shots confidential. Additionally, Part III explains that if there is a public interest in mug shots, then the interest is minimal and disclosure without consent is unwarranted. Finally, Part IV urges Congress to enact a categorical exemption for mug shots, such that a mug shot will only be released in two situations: (1)to the subject of the mug shot when the subject makes a request for it, or (2) to the public if the subject of the mug shot consents to release.



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