The Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA) regulates the preservation and public access to government records in Hawaii, with the aim of promoting transparency in government activities. The Act covers records in any format, including electronic records, which means that social media records in Hawaii should be considered as public records.
PART 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS AND DEFINITIONS
[§92F-2] Purposes; rules of construction. In a democracy, the people are vested with the ultimate decision-making power. Government agencies exist to aid the people in the formation and conduct of public policy. Opening up the government processes to public scrutiny and participation is the only viable and reasonable method of protecting the public’s interest. Therefore the legislature declares that it is the policy of this State that the formation and conduct of public policy—the discussions, deliberations, decisions, and action of government agencies—shall be conducted as openly as possible.
§92F-3] General definitions. Unless the context otherwise requires, in this chapter:
“Agency” means any unit of government in this State, any county, or any combination of counties; department; institution; board; commission; district; council; bureau; office; governing authority; other instrumentality of state or county government; or corporation or other establishment owned, operated, or managed by or on behalf of this State or any county, but does not include the nonadministrative functions of the courts of this State.
“Government record” means information maintained by an agency in written, auditory, visual, electronic, or other physical form.
The Hawaii Office of Information Practices has issued guidance on the UIPA, stating that the law aims to promote transparency in government operations. The guidance underscores the requirement that "all government records be accessible to public inspection, except when access is expressly limited." Since social media records fall within the Act's wide-ranging definition of "government records," they must comply with the Act's record retention provisions.
In 1988, the Hawaii State Legislature enacted the Uniform Information Practices Act (Modified) (“UIPA”) based upon the premise that a democracy vests the people with the ultimate decision-making power and government exists only to aid the people in the exercise of that power. Recognizing public scrutiny and participation to be essential to the exercise of that power, the Legislature declared it to be the policy of this state to conduct government as openly as possible, tempered by the right of the people to privacy as embodied in our state constitution. To that end, the UIPA mandates that all government records be open to public inspection unless access is specifically restricted or closed by law.
What Records Does the UIPA Cover?
The UIPA requires agencies to disclose all “government records.” This term is defined broadly to include any information maintained by an agency that is recorded in any physical form.
OIP has interpreted “maintained” to mean information physically possessed or administratively controlled by an agency. An agency has administrative control over a record where it has the right to gain access to the record. For example, where an agency contracts with a private company and has the right to review the records held by the company under the contract, those records would be considered government records, even if they are not physically in the agency’s office.
The Hawaii State Senate has implemented a comprehensive Social Media Use Policy to promote appropriate and effective use of social media networks. The policy emphasizes compliance with applicable laws, including records retention policies. This policy sets a strong example for managing social media records in Hawaii to minimize the risk of litigation under the Uniform Information Practices Act.
Sec. 2.1 Policy
(1) General Rule. The use of social media shall conform to Senate rules, policies, guidelines, procedures; all applicable federal, state, and county laws, ordinances regulations and policies including, but not limited to, copyright, records retention, ethics, campaign, and privacy laws; and shall be professional in nature and limited to legislative purposes