In Idaho, the Public Records Act requires that public agencies retain any information “owned, used, produced or retained” in any form. This includes records related to everyone's favorite subject - social media! It's important to remember that all records related to an agency's social media activities should be treated as public records and remain on file with the proper authorities.
74-101. DEFINITIONS. As used in this chapter:
(13) “Public record” includes, but is not limited to, any writing containing information relating to the conduct or administration of the public’s business prepared, owned, used or retained by any state agency, independent public body corporate and politic or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.
The Idaho Attorney General issued a guidance document that outlines the Idaho Public Records Act, including any records related to social media. This document serves as evidence that the definition of "public records" found in the Idaho Code is quite expansive and covers digital media like emails and text messages. Therefore, by this logic, social media records in Idaho should also be subject to its public records act.
Question No. 6: What are public records?
Answer: “Public record,” as defined by the Idaho Code, is an extremely broad concept. It “includes, but is not limited to, any writing containing information relating to the conduct or administration of the public’s business prepared, owned, used or retained by any state agency, independent public body corporate and politic or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.”
“Writing” means information maintained in many forms, including typewritten or hand written documents as well as pictures, maps, tapes, magnetic or punched cards, and computer media.
In 1990, the Idaho Supreme Court held that the Boundary County clerk’s handwritten notes taken during commission meetings were not “a personal notation for random observations or memoranda concerning events undertaken at a meeting,” but were part of her statutory duty to record all proceedings of the commissioners.” Working papers,” “raw notes,” “preliminary drafts” and the like are not necessarily exempt from disclosure.
To date, e-mail (electronic mail) and text messaging have not been separately addressed by the Legislature. E-mail and texts are considered public records and are subject to the same laws as any other public record.
In Eagle, Idaho, the local government has adopted a comprehensive social media policy that explicitly recognizes social media records as subject to the Idaho Public Records Act and mandates their proper retention. The policy outlines guidelines for managing records, such as ensuring that the archive maintains the accuracy of the original records and is readily accessible. This policy serves as an excellent demonstration of how to manage social media records in Idaho, mitigating potential risks and ensuring compliance with public records requests.
4. The City’s social media sites are subject to the Idaho Public Records Act. Any content posted or maintained in a social media format that is related to City business, may be a public record subject to public disclosure. All public records requests for information contained in City social media sites must be in writing to the City Clerk’s office or through the City’s website (www.cityofeagle.org). The City Clerk’s office shall be responsible for responding completely and accurately to any public records request for public records on social media; provided, however, such requests shall be handled in collaboration with the City Attorney’s office. Content related to City business shall be maintained in an accessible format and so that it can be produced in a response to a request. Wherever possible, such sites shall clearly indicate that any articles and any other content posted or submitted for posting may be or are subject to public disclosure upon request. Users shall be notified that public disclosure requests must be directed to the City Clerk’s office or the City’s website (www.cityofeagle.org).
5. Idaho law and the City of Eagle’s Record Retention Manual shall apply to social media formats and social media content. Unless otherwise addressed in a specific social media standards document, the department, board, commission or office maintaining a site shall preserve records required to be maintained pursuant to a relevant records retention schedule for the required retention period on a City server in a format that preserves the integrity of the original record and is easily accessible. Appropriate retention formats for specific social media tools will be detailed in standards established by the Communications Specialist for each type of social media site, including but not limited to: Twitter, Facebook, and Video Posting.