Text Messages Subject to Public Records Laws
ANCHORAGE-A recent opinion issued by the non-partisan Legislative Legal Services determined that text messages are considered public records under the Alaska Public Records Act. The law defines public records as “books, papers, files, accounts, writings, including drafts and memorializations of conversations and other items, regardless of format or physical characteristics."
“Texting has become an integral part of how many people communicate and even conduct business,” said Senator Hollis French, D-Anchorage. “That’s why it is important for everyone to understand that text messages concerning state business are in fact subject to Alaska’s public record laws. “
The opinion is further supported by an earlier opinion from the state’s Attorney General who said, “State business records generated on a personal cell phone or PDA are public records subject to review and disclosure, unless the Public Records Act permits them to be withheld.”
Current Alaska law makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly suppress or destroy a message or other item that would be covered by the Public Records Act. In 2009, the Administration set a policy for executive branch employees stating that any communications that could possibly fall under the public records laws be preserved and archived for longest applicable period.
“This is about having a transparent and open government,” said Senator French. “It is the right of the public to be able to see how and why their government officials are making the decisions that they are. It’s a form of accountability that I think is vital to making sure the government acts in the best interest of Alaskans.”
To read the Legal Services opinion, click here.
For more information, please contact Cindy Smith in Senator French’s office at (907) 465-3892.