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The Gap Between Technology and Open Records

September 25, 2009

BillMcCollumFollowing the ethics controversy surrounding BlackBerry messages being exchanged between regulators at the Public Service Commission and executives at Florida Power & Light, some are asking the state to update Florida’s open-records laws with fast changing communications technology.

Attorney General Bill McCollum has recently been at the forefront of the discussion, launching a policy of recording office-based BlackBerry messages and making them available to the public.

When announcing the policy, McCollum stated, “the evolution of technology should be an asset, not an obstacle, to transparency and accountability. This policy will allow for both government efficiency and more open government.”

However, the Attorney General isn’t the only one addressing new technology and open records laws, as reported by the Jacksonville Times-Union:

Other state agencies, including the office of Gov. Charlie Crist, have responded by shutting off features like PIN and text messages, limiting employees to using the phone and e-mail to communicate about state business.

“We do not use technology to circumvent the open government laws and we do not use text messages to discuss state business, so the use of PIN or texting functions within the governor’s office is not necessary,” Sterling Ivey, Crist’s press secretary, said in an e-mail.

Kyra Jennings, a spokeswoman for state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, also a candidate for governor , said employees in the Florida Department of Financial Services are advised not to use personal e-mail or devices to communicate about government business, because those employees are responsible for making sure they retain any public records.

“If state business is being done, the best place to do it is on state e-mail,” she said.

Jennings also said the department is working to craft a more comprehensive policy for dealing with technology like PINs, Facebook and Twitter.

Florida applying open-records laws to shifting technology [Jacksonville Times-Union]

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