Idaho Public Records Act & Social Media
The Idaho Public Records Act requires that agencies retain records for any content “prepared, owned, used or retained” by an agency “regardless of physical form or characteristics”. Therefore, social media records in Idaho should be considered a public record under the Law.
Show Idaho law text
Excerpt from the Idaho Public Records Act
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.
Guidance from the Idaho Attorney General
The Idaho Attorney General has issued guidance on the Idaho Public Records Act. Although social media records in Idaho are not specifically addressed, the document does clarify what types of records should be considered “public records.” The Attorney general stresses that the Idaho Code definition of “public records” is an “extremely broad concept” that allows for e-mail and text messages to be considered public records despite not being separately addressed. This guidance suggests that social media records in Idaho are governed by the Idaho Public Records act and are subject to the same laws as any other public record.
View the Idaho Attorney General Guidance
Excerpt from the Idaho Public Records Law Manual, Attorney General guidance.
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.
Idaho Social Media Records Management in Practice
The City of Eagle, Idaho has implemented a robust social media policy clearly stating that social media records are subject to the Idaho Public Records Act and must be retained accordingly. The policy establishes instructions for handling records, including a requirement that the archive “preserves the integrity of the original record and is easily accessible.” This policy serves as a strong example of how to handle social media records in Idaho to minimize risk and prepare for fulfilling public records requests.
View City of Eagle's Social Media Policy
Excerpt from the City of Eagle Social Media Policy
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 busienss 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.