National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Text messages as public records: A new set of issues


Most people who are used to sending text messages fire them off without a second thought.

But for public officials, the technology brings more than just convenient communication. It also raises concerns and possible conflicts between personal privacy and open records laws.

In recent years, text messages have figured prominently in some high-profile official misconduct investigations. They revealed key details of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's infamous time in office, for instance.

Closer to home, a probe showed text exchanges between Orange County commissioners and lobbyists while the board was considering a sick-pay initiative last September.

As this week marks Sunshine Week, which emphasizes open government and freedom of information, text messaging is becoming an increasingly important and controversial issue in the realm of public records.