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DPS Reverses Decision To Remove Photos From Public Website

The Department of Public Safety has reversed its May decision to remove 100,000 photos of Texas floods from a public website. The reconnaissance photos were removed from public view after news reports of oil spills seen in many of the photos.

According to the El Paso Times, the photos, taken by the Civil Air Patrol to document flood damage, had been posted on the website of the Center for Space Research at UT-Austin.In May, DPS said it had removed the photos from the public domain because they were not vetted for privacy concerns. The Times quoted DPS spokesman, Tom Vinger, who cited concerns that bodies of flood victims could appear on the website.  He said the public and the media could request access to the photos through the Freedom of Information Act.Texas State Senator Jose Rodriguez of El Paso decried the DPS explanation, saying he was troubled that DPS might be trying to keep photographic evidence of spills that could damage water supplies from public view.The Times filed the public information request and DPS then made the website accessible to the public once again.In a statement furnished to Texas Public Radio Wednesday, Vinger said the sheer volume of photographs made it time consuming and costly for the public to access them and for the agency to review each photo for privacy concerns.The Times reported that the removal of the photos appeared to be the state’s most substantive response to reports of photos depicting massive oil spills from flooding in recent years.