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One app promotes itself as a way to discuss sensitive negotiations and human resources problems without leaving a digital record.
Another boasts that disappearing messages "keep your message history tidy." And a popular email service recently launched a "confidential mode" allowing the content of messages to disappear after a set time.
Proliferation - Tools - Text - Email - Messages
The proliferation of digital tools that make text and email messages vanish may be welcome to Americans seeking to guard their privacy. But open government advocates fear they are being misused by public officials to conduct business in secret and evade transparency laws.
Whether communications on those platforms should be part of the public record is a growing but unsettled debate in states across the country. Updates to transparency laws lag behind rapid technological advances, and the public and private personas of state officials overlap on private smartphones and social media accounts.
Kind - Technologies - Technology - State - Government
"Those kind of technologies literally undermine, through the technology itself, state open government laws and policies," said Daniel Bevarly, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. "And they come on top of the misuse of other technologies, like people using their own private email and cellphones to conduct business."
Some government officials have argued that public employees should be free to communicate on private, non-governmental cellphones and social media platforms without triggering open records requirements.
Lawmakers - Kentucky - Arizona - Year - Communications
Lawmakers in Kentucky and Arizona this year unsuccessfully proposed exempting all communications on personal phones from state open records laws, alarming open government advocates. A Virginia lawmaker introduced a bill to exempt all personal social media records of state lawmakers from disclosure.
New Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer went the opposite direction in February with an executive order that requires his staff to use official email accounts for all government business. He also banned private accounts for any communications related to "the functions, activities, programs, or operations" of...
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