May 15, 2003

Public office, open records and IM

- The mayor and New Orleans and his staff make great use of BlackBerry communicators. The problem is that peer-to-peer messages aren’t stored anywhere. But they’re public officials and their communications need to be logged:

Under Louisiana law, just about every document generated by a public official at work -- including books, records, letters, phone logs, tapes, memoranda and "information contained in electronic data processing equipment," among other items -- is considered a public record, meaning citizens have the right to examine it.

Normal emails are stored by the Mayor's office, although the article says they also lost email when they moved to a new email server (must have been Exchange). While it's easy to dismiss instant messages as silly one-offs ("Wanna eat?"), I think most tech people have found that communication tends to bleed over technology boundaries. What to do?

As a sidenote: I have no idea if the BlackBerry peer-to-peer protocol is proprietary (although it likely is), but it would be interesting to see what would happen if the BlackBerry could be hacked to send "peer-to-peer" messages through a Jabber server for which the city could then create a plugin to log everything. Or more generally, what would happen if they were using an open and modifiable system versus a closed one.

(Found at thescoop)

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