Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Are iPads Violating Federal Record Keeping Laws?

“Apple’s iPad tablet computer could allow White House staffers to circumvent a law aimed at preserving all official communications,” according to a report at the Hill website:
It is unclear how many White House staffers have iPads and to what extent they are used for official business, but the issue highlights the difficulties of the Presidential Records Act, which has failed to keep up with changes in the way people communicate digitally.

The law mandates that all communications related to official business must be archived, and the administration’s policy is that White House staffers who use personal email or social-networking accounts to conduct official business must forward the messages for archiving to official accounts.

But there are few safeguards to ensure they do so....David Ferriero, the archivist of the U.S., said he isn’t comfortable with White House staffers determining for themselves what is and isn’t relevant for presidential records.

The issue facing the White House in this case is not unique. Many other government entities grapple with how to allow staff to use personal technology while staying compliant with “freedom of information” and government record-keeping laws.

In addition, while no one is accusing the White House of breaking the law, there have been attempts by government employees to use personal email accounts in ways that might circumvent open government laws.

In New York State, an opinion has been issued advising that that records of official business emailed to a private or home address are subject to the Freedom of Information Law. It would seem that the federal government, if it has not already, should follow suit.