A copy of Senate Bill 1368, which is effective September 1st, is attached. The bill broadens the definition of "public information" to rope in any electronic communication about government business by a public servant on any personal device. I know some people receive either reimbursements or stipends for the government work they do on their private cell phones, smart phones, or personal computers. This bill seems to make any such use of personal electronic devices problematic, particularly given the metadata created by any use of any electronic devices. Comments?
August 13, 2013, 14:01
Not from my smartphone.
August 13, 2013, 14:08
August 14, 2013, 13:28
I have to admit we have told our folks that if the county pays (or partially)for your phone, then don't be surprised.
August 14, 2013, 14:41
Brody V. Burks
People make fun of me for carrying two phones. This is why I don't listen to them.
August 14, 2013, 16:50
When this goes into effect, it will apply even if the county doesn't pay for the phone or its cell service. If you do county business on your own phone, it's public information under the PIA.
Originally posted by Ray: I have to admit we have told our folks that if the county pays (or partially)for your phone, then don't be surprised.
August 15, 2013, 17:07
Originally posted by Ben Stool: If you do county business on your own phone, it's public information under the PIA.
Wasn't there already an AG Letter Opinion to that effect? I thought this new law merely codified that.
August 16, 2013, 08:57
Mack T. Harrison
Yes, the AG had long been holding in its open records rulings that public officials' discussions of public business on personal electronics are subject to release under the Public Information Act.
August 21, 2013, 11:11
So then does it matter if you are not reimbursed or receive any payment from the County for your phone? If you use it to talk to Defense attorneys, officers or witnesses, it's subject to a release of information request?
August 21, 2013, 11:28
The key is what is being done (i.e., public business), not the medium in, through, or on which is it being done.
But remember, all the usual exceptions and limitations of the PIA still apply.
August 21, 2013, 15:29
What about the use of texting? Normally, nothing is saved. Will employees be required to save and store texts? Seems so, but how, exactly, do you save your texts and store them for access by the public?
August 28, 2013, 09:51
I think texts will be very troublesome given that saving them in a form which can be easily searched and copied can be time consuming. Also, cellular carriers will charge money to retrieve texts, if they agree to at all, after the user has deleted texts from the phone that created or received the texts.
August 28, 2013, 11:29
Can you legally delete a text anymore?
August 28, 2013, 14:11
Will public officials start communicating through SnapChat?
My phone. I pay for it. I bought it, without government funds. I will deal with the information on it in any way I see fit. Until the legislature mandates all government business be done on government owned property, my personal property and the control thereof remain mine. They will get my phone when they pry it from, etc., etc., etc......
Unfortunately, the law states OTHERWISE! Looky at the AG's opinion here
What's next? Wearing "pen cams" to record our every minute of activity during working hours? If so, I will be sure to have digestive issues to record.
Maybe we should just quit communicating. Except in person.This message has been edited. Last edited by: MDK27,
September 09, 2013, 15:53
Mack T. Harrison
It's pretty simple. The new law applies to information in connection with the transaction of official business. So if someone wants all your cell phone texts, they can only get the ones having to do with work. Communications with friends or family or other non-work related texts or calls are not responsive, and I would argue that you wouldn't have to release them as they are not subject to the Public Information Act.
September 10, 2013, 08:51
As schools across the nation develop social media programs, students are finding out it might be a necessity.
The next generation of public officials are going to have very mixed public/private communications. Maintaining separate accounts, etc., is not the future.
September 10, 2013, 09:20
I agree that communications or documents which are not the transaction of official business are not public information. My concern is the amount of time and energy it would take to cull through all of the communications or documents to separate the personal from the public. Also, who is the final arbiter of what is personal and what is public? The Open Records Division of the Texas Attorney General's Office might take the position that you have to send it all to them so they can make the final determination of whether a communication or document is public. Also, if the PIA requestor only asks for access to inspect the communications or documents, you're not going to be able to charge very much as costs. That is a problem now anyway, but with a personal device with lots of material mixed up together, the expense of preparing the material for inspection could be considerable. Finally, there is the issue of metadata. The headers of email messages contain lots of information about where the email came from, where it went to, and many things in between. That metadata can reveal a lot about who you've been communicating with and how often.
Originally posted by Mack T. Harrison: It's pretty simple. The new law applies to information in connection with the transaction of official business. So if someone wants all your cell phone texts, they can only get the ones having to do with work. Communications with friends or family or other non-work related texts or calls are not responsive, and I would argue that you wouldn't have to release them as they are not subject to the Public Information Act.
September 10, 2013, 09:28
Take for example, a simple photograph taken on a smart phone. The image, say of your meal used to show someone how you enjoyed eating lunch somewhere, is itself perhaps personal. The metadata, showing the time and location, might be public if the requestor is looking to find out where you are during working hours.
As smartphones gather more and more information with less and less effort, the private/public nature of such information will get more complicated. This new bill doesn't really take any of that into account and paints with a very broad brush. The addition of communication methods (e.g., texting) that were created to avoid the storage of data as public information that must be stored and disclosed upon request, really does challenge how public officials behave and communicate in a modern world that no longer treats verbal communication as the preferred form of communication.