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Will your email or text message make the news?

Sounds pretty sensational, doesn’t it? Public employee emails and text messages are in the news in open records laws and proposed laws nationwide.

One of the proposed changes to Iowa’s open-government laws this year refers to information “stored in any medium” and defines the records as anything “owned by, created by, in the possession of, or under the control of, any unit, division, or part of state or local government or the officials or employees of such public bodies in the course of the performance of their respective duties.”

A circuit judge ruled “The fact that state employees are using state resources to exchange non-work-related messages during working hours is a matter of legitimate inquiry for the public.”

You do not own your work computer, cell phone or hand-held device
It’s becoming clearer that whatever you send from a public computer, that is the one on your desk if you’re a government employee, may be subject to open records laws. The same for your cell phone or hand-held device if it belongs to the government.

So be a good citizen, be civil, particularly if you’re a public employee. Two points:
• Don’t type something you don’t want to see in the newspaper. That’s a double negative. Think of it like this—assume anything you type can be used in an open-records case.
• Don’t send non-work related communication from equipment owned by your employer.

If you didn’t read these posts last summer, read them now, or reread them---
Think before you send. Send email you would like to receive.
Work email and personal email are quite different in two ways
It is difficult for me to select the most relevant posts about email because I think you need to consider many aspects. To find my eight posts on email, go to http://www.extension.iastate.edu/mt/civility/communication/email/
And if you want to borrow my copy of the book SEND which is the basis of some of these posts, just ask.