Closing Loopholes

Politicians likes to talk about various loopholes that private individuals exploit. But what about the loopholes politicians exploit? Realizing that data stored on government systems is potentially accessible via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, some clever politicians have started storing their data on their private systems thinking that doing so will defend them against FOIA requests. The California Supreme Court decided to close that particular loophole:

The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that state and local officials must disclose public records even if those “writings” are held on private devices or accounts. The City of San Jose and the County of Santa Clara had argued that such records could be exempted from the California Public Records Act.

The case dates back to 2009, when Ted Smith, a local environment activist, filed a public records request about various San Jose officials’ requests concerning local development efforts. When records came back that did not include materials from personal devices or accounts, he sued.

At one point it wasn’t uncommon for companies to forbid employees from brining private devices into the workplace. Perhaps government agencies should consider adopting such policies. Sure, it’ll make the lives of government employees a bit more miserable but I consider that an added bonus, not a detriment. It would make it more difficult for government employees to disappear information by storing it on personal devices and then wiping that data to guard it against FOIA requests (even if the law requires handing over that data one cannot hand over what no longer exists).