By Bill Anderson and David Thun Notary signing agents have a duty to protect the privacy of their customers — especially when someone asks to see the Notary’s journal entries. Recently the NNA learned that at least one title company is asking to inspect journal entries of Notary signing agents as a prerequisite to loan document assignments. What should you do if you encounter this situation? Privacy rules A company should not ask a Notary signing agent to view non-customer journal records containing private personal information. Title companies are responsible for protecting confidential customer financial information under the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), and inspecting journal entries that do not involve customers of the title company would violate GLBA rules. Subject to the exceptions listed below, the NNA recommends signing agents refuse to allow potential contracting companies to view their journals, since signing agents are bound to protect non-public personal information under the same GLBA rules. State-specific exceptions Some states proscribe rules for providing access to journal entries that are exceptions to the normal privacy guidelines discussed above. Unless one of these stated exceptions applies, Notary signing agents should not allow a title company to inspect their journals as a condition to receiving assignments with that company. Arizona — A journal entry that is a public record may be viewed by any person who presents a written request that details the name of the person whose signature was notarized, the month and year the act took place and the type of document or transaction (ARS 41-319[F]). Note that Arizona authorizes Notaries to keep a separate journal for notarial acts that are not public records. Entries that are not public records include journal entries containing information covered by attorney-client privilege or entries that are confidential pursuant to federal or state law. Journals that contain non-public records are the property of the Notary’s employer (usually a law firm) and must be kept confidential (ARS 41-319[A]). California — Government Code 8206[d] states that the journal is the exclusive property of the Notary and prohibits a Notary from surrendering the journal to any person except to a peace officer if the journal contains evidence related to a criminal investigation or to the county clerk when the Notary ends his or her career as a Notary. However, a California Notary must provide a photocopy of a journal entry to anyone making a written request that includes the name of the parties involved in the notarization, the type of document, and the month and year the notarization took place (Government Code 8206 [c]). A Notary-employee must permit an employer to inspect journal entries that are directly associated with the employer’s business provided the Notary is physically present. The employer may not require Notary employees to provide access to journal entries unrelated to the employer’s business (Government Code 8206[d]). Hawaii — Hawaii Notaries must allow inspection of journal records by any responsible person without fee or reward (HRS 502-73). Maryland — Notaries must provide a certified copy of any entry in the journal to any person who makes the request and pays the fee (ACM St. Gov. 18-107). Massachusetts — Notary journals may only be inspected without restriction by law enforcement, if subpoenaed by court order, or when the Governor’s Office orders the Notary to surrender the journal (MA Governor’s Executive Order 04-04, Section 12[a]). The Governor’s website recommends Massachusetts Notaries provide a photocopy only if the requestor provides satisfactory evidence of identity, affixes a signature in the Notary’s journal in a separate, dated entry and specifies the month, year, type of document and name of the person for the notarial act or acts sought. The person may only be shown the requested entries and Notaries may refuse if they have a reasonable belief the requestor has criminal or harmful intent. Mississippi — A Notary must provide photocopies of journal records to a person who requests it and pays the legal fee (MCA 25-33-5). Any person may inspect a journal entry in the Notary’s presence during regular business hours if (a) the person is personally known or provides satisfactory proof of identity to the Notary; (b) the person requesting the inspection signs a separate, dated entry in the Notary’s journal; (c) the person specifies the month, year, type of document and name of the principal for the notarial acts and (d) the person is only shown the entries specified in the request. Only law enforcement, a court-ordered subpoena or the Secretary of State can request an unrestricted inspection of a Mississippi Notary’s journal. The Notary may deny access to the journal if the Notary has a reasonable and explainable belief that a person bears a criminal or harmful intent in requesting information from the journal (MS Administrative Code Title 1 Part 5 Rule 5.17[A],[B] and [C]). Nevada — A Nevada Notary’s journal is open to public inspection without qualification (NRS 240.120). Texas — Texas Notaries must provide a certified copy of any requested entry upon payment of the fee allowed by law (Government Code Section 406.014 and Texas Administrative Code, Title 1, Section 87.42). Bill Anderson is Vice President of Legislative Affairs with the National Notary Association.David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.