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Florida attorney general working on impact of social media on the Sunshine Law

Attorney General Bill McCollum sent a letter, today, March 17,  to  Secretary of State Kurt Browning asking the Department to update its  administrative rules on the retention guidelines for other types of  electronic communication. The request was made after the conclusion of the  Attorney General’s Sunshine Technology Team, which determined that  electronic communications were not necessarily transitory by nature and  could be retained easily.

“I encourage new technologies to make agencies more efficient and  productive, as well as to give our citizens more access to their  government,” wrote the Attorney General. “I urge the Department of State  to consider initiating a rule-making process updating the retention  schedule for electronic communication, including a period for public  comment, the opportunity for public hearings, and the ability of all  parties to submit changes to draft rules.”

The Department of State currently maintains administrative rules defining  the retention schedule for government agency email. There are no required  retention guidelines for other types of electronic communications,  however, because the administrative rules describe them as transitory.

Following a controversy at the Public Services Commission (PSC) involving  Blackberry PIN messages, the Attorney General formed the Sunshine Tech  Team to explore and understand technology in government communications and  their implications on Florida’s open government laws. One of the team’s  goals was to “bust the myth” of how these types of communications are  handled from an information technology perspective and how they can be  captured, retained and disclosed under Florida’s Sunshine and public  records laws.

The fact-finding group held three meetings attended by open government  advocates, agency Chief Information Officers, state and local government  representatives, and members of the media. The team received presentations  and engaged in discussion on Blackberry communications, Microsoft  communication platforms, and social networking such as Facebook and  Twitter. The meetings were also attended by open government advocates,  including Florence Snyder, a former trustee of the Poynter Institute for  Media Studies who has practiced media law for several years and has  represented numerous media clients. Florence also currently sits on the  advisory board of the Bureau of National Affairs’ Media Law Reporter.

A copy of the Attorney General’s letter to Secretary Browning is available  online at:$file/BrowningLetter.pdf

The Attorney General also announced a new Social Networking video has been  added to the online series of training videos on topics related to the  Sunshine law, which include information on meeting notice requirements,  rules for assessing fees and costs when responding to records requests,  and exemption and redaction guidelines. The new video provides guidelines  for public entities that have Facebook pages or Twitter accounts on how to  operate in accordance with Florida’s open government and public records  laws. For example, the video states that all contents of a city’s Facebook  page, including information about a city’s friend list, would be subject  to disclosure under Florida’s Public Records Act.

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Posted by Andrea Freygang on Mar 17 2010. Filed under Broward County, Ethics in Broward, Fort Lauderdale, Local news, Tallahassee, Technology, Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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