Friday, April 13, 2012

Yes They Can Get Your Texts

Among all the text content released yesterday evening by the University of Arkansas, this image is the one you need to take to your administrators, your coaches, your policy makers and to note for yourself.

In the exchange, Bobby Petrino is asking one of his staffers if the actual texts, not just the phone numbers contacted, can be retrieved or would be subject to Arkansas' FOIA law. In some ways, the answer given was correct, but as everyone learned, not completely accurate.

We know from previous cases that you can expose your personal email accounts to FOIA in certain states if they are being used to circumvent official email. Here we see a phone that got scrubbed for data when it was turned in, screen captures made of the text conversations and then they were released to the Arkansas media.

The questions you need to ask yourself on behalf of your agency/department:

What is the policy about stored data? Do state laws or institutional policy require maintaining records?

Whatever those policies are on email, there is the high likelihood they apply to text messages. If they don't, then unless you want to end up in this kind of pickle, keep your phones clean.

This especially applies to smart phones, which can store, as Bobby Petrino found out the hard way, lots of stuff.

It's obvious from some of the back and forth two things were going on. First, people who didn't want to talk to each other were using text to communicate. If you read the whole 30 pages worth you'll see things like are you in your office, etc.

Second, the same people put things in texts that they thought would be ephemeral, that knowing FOIA law would apply to an email they would never have sent in that manner.

Remember the first law of Facebook: Digital assets are extremely portable and once posted are always available.

That applies everywhere in a digital world.

After twice burned, can we hope that the next head football coach at Arkansas will understand that cell phone records are part of the public record?

To repeat my earlier #WordsOfTwisdom in the matter:

Things to remember: never use your office phone/computer/email for personal business. Never. Ever. Ever. Never.

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