Important New Guidance Issued Regarding Agency Text Messaging
If you’re an official or staff member for a local government in Washington State and you sometimes use text messaging to conduct agency business, or you’re thinking about doing so, there are unique legal considerations related to texting that you and your agency need to be aware of. These considerations include possible implications regarding records retention, as well as regarding the Public Records Act (PRA).
The state agency that administers the rules regarding records retention is the Washington State Archives (WSA), a division of the Office of the Secretary of State. The WSA recently issued important “Advice Sheets” regarding texting, and I recommend that local government officials and staff thoughtfully consider these Advice Sheets. There are five Advice Sheets related to texting, and each of them is brief (one page), as follows:
- Text Messages and Public Records - The Basics
- Are Text Messages Public Records?
- How Long Do Text Messages Need to be Kept?
- Capture and Retention of Text Messages
- Managing Public Records Created or Received as Text Messages
The Advice Sheets can also be accessed via the WSA’s Managing Text Messages web page.
I recommend that agency officials and staff consult with your agency’s Public Records Officer and legal counsel about your agency’s policies related to such electronic communications. Texting and other types of electronic messaging can be a valuable tool for local governments, but it’s important that agencies carefully consider records retention requirements – as well as potential implications under the PRA – that can relate to such communications.Photo courtesy of NEC Corporation of America.
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