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Overview of Sunshine Laws

Do you trust your government? The heart of democracy, “by the people, for the people”, requires that government be accountable to it citizens. And, if there is no trust there, how can democracy flourish?Trust, though, need not be blind faith. Policies, procedures and systems can help make government accountable. Open records laws often referred to as Sunshine Laws, are laws that promote transparency; requiring certain proceedings of government agencies to be open or available to the public.The term sunshine law can be traced back to Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law, which was enacted in 1967. While there were Public Records Laws before that, these Sunshine Laws expanded the scope of what is available to the public.The Public Records Laws covered documents; at first, written materials; but later, expanded to tapes, photographs, film, sound recordings and computer files. With the Sunshine Laws (Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes), any record made or received by any public agency in the course of its official business are available for personal inspection by any person, (unless specifically exempted by Florida Legislature).

Florida Sunshine Laws

119.01 General state policy on public records.
(1) It is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person. Providing access to public records is a duty of each agency.
(2)(a) Automation of public records must not erode the right of access to those records. As each agency increases its use of and dependence on electronic recordkeeping, each agency must provide reasonable public access to records electronically maintained and must ensure that exempt or confidential records are not disclosed except as otherwise permitted by law.
(b) When designing or acquiring an electronic recordkeeping system, an agency must consider whether such system is capable of providing data in some common format such as, but not limited to, the American Standard Code for Information Interchange.
(c) An agency may not enter into a contract for the creation or maintenance of a public records database if that contract impairs the ability of the public to inspect or copy the public records of the agency, including public records that are online or stored in an electronic recordkeeping system used by the agency.
(d) Subject to the restrictions of copyright and trade secret laws and public records exemptions, agency use of proprietary software must not diminish the right of the public to inspect and copy a public record.
(e) Providing access to public records by remote electronic means is an additional method of access that agencies should strive to provide to the extent feasible. If an agency provides access to public records by remote electronic means, such access should be provided in the most cost-effective and efficient manner available to the agency providing the information.
(f) Each agency that maintains a public record in an electronic recordkeeping system shall provide to any person, pursuant to this chapter, a copy of any public record in that system which is not exempted by law from public disclosure. An agency must provide a copy of the record in the medium requested if the agency maintains the record in that medium, and the agency may charge a fee in accordance with this chapter. For the purpose of satisfying a public records request, the fee to be charged by an agency if it elects to provide a copy of a public record in a medium not routinely used by the agency, or if it elects to compile information not routinely developed or maintained by the agency or that requires a substantial amount of manipulation or programming, must be in accordance with s. 119.07(4).
Since Florida has enacted their Sunshine Laws, many other jurisdictions have enacted similar laws. Many have even named their laws as Sunshine Laws. Here is a partial list:

Missouri Sunshine Law

Subject to Chapter 610, Missouri Attorney General notes that, “the Sunshine Law applies to all records, regardless of what form they are kept in, and to all meetings, regardless of the manner in which they are held.” Government records on a non-government owned server (i.e. social media site) are subject to a Sunshine request, and legal discovery.

Ohio Sunshine Laws

Ohio has notably pro-access freedom of information laws. In Ohio Ohio’s Public Records and Open Meetings Laws, collectively known as the “Sunshine Laws,” give Ohioans access to government meetings and records – collectively known as “public records”. Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.) 149.011 applies to and defines Open Records.

Hawaii Sunshine Law

Hawaii Sunshine Law legislates the methods by which public meetings and associated records are monitored and conducted.

New Mexico Sunshine Laws

New Mexico Sunshine Laws and provisions of access to public records, website and social media records can be found within the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) and the Open Meetings Act (OMA).

North Dakota Sunshine Laws

North Dakota Open Records Statute (N.D.C.C. §44-04-18 et seq.) and North Dakota Open Meetings Statute N.D.C.C. §44-04-19 et seq. govern open records in the State of North Dakota. These Sunshine Laws provide that all government records and meetings must be open to the public (unless a specific statute requires or authorizes a meeting or record to be closed).

Louisiana Sunshine Law

The Louisiana Public Records Act (La.R.S. 44:1 et seq.) and Louisiana Open Meetings Law La.R.S. 42:4.1 et seq.also known as Louisiana’s Sunshine Law govern social media and Open Records in the state of Louisiana, providing access to records for the public.

Here is a list of all US State Open Records Laws

Open Records Laws by State

Click the map below to learn the details how Public Record Laws in your state.
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Going Gov 2.0? Keep it Legal

In the fast-paced, tech-based culture we live in now, many local governments are finding it essential to communicate and relate with the public on entirely new levels and in creative new ways. They want to be more accessible,more focused on problem-solving, and — perhaps most importantly — more interactive.

The Gov 2.0 movement is a result of this mentality, and now we have the mayor on Twitter, RSS feeds on the municipal website, and citizen-driven community improvement platforms on our mobile phones. Exciting and innovative? Yes. Somewhat intimidating? Yes, indeed.

Government agencies are jumping on board with all manner of citizen-empowering technologies, but not without some hesitation. The main concern for a government of any size when it comes to advancing technology is this: What are the legal risks associated with these innovations? Are we covering our bases in case of investigation or litigation? In the world where information is so easily disseminated and always changing, how can we maintain the integrity and perpetuity of our website?

Smart government agencies realize that their websites are public records, and are concerned with maintaining official archives as required by law. But how is that to be done efficiently given the complex, transitory nature of websites today?PageFreezer is providing the answer: regular online archiving of web pages that include a digital signature and timestamp to every page. Data integrity and authenticity are assured, the archives readily accessible for viewing anytime, and no installation or software involved.

Even for cities that have Flash files or other interactive media on their sites, PageFreezer is on the job. We can archive all content to be replayed at a later date, exactly as if it were live. Knowing that web pages are automatically stored in a manner compliant with record retention laws, government agencies are free to enter the cutting-edge world of Gov 2.0 without fear. They can focus on what’s really important – relating to and empowering citizens – while leaving the legal stuff to us.

Dustin Haisler, CIO, and Asst. Manager of the radically forward-thinking city of Manor, TX, employed PageFreezer in his recent Gov 2.0 Makeover of another Texas city that needed a push forward. Along with a website facelift, a handy citizen-reporting platform, and several other innovations, the city of De Leon, TX began archiving its online activity with PageFreezer to ensure compliance with all legal requirements. “Emerging social technologies allow us to interact with our citizens in very exciting and meaningful ways, says Haisler, who is a leading evangelist of the benefits of technology to local governments.However, legal constraints sometimes restrict our ability to experiment in these new channels of communication. Using PageFreezer, we’re able to not only experiment in these new channels but also stay compliant with record retention laws.”

Being aware of the legal implications of modern technological advances, and acting on that awareness, is an indispensable step in the process of becoming a dynamic, citizen-empowering government agency. It’s a step you can’t afford NOT to take. Let PageFreezer handle records retention, so you can get on with the business of interacting with and relating to the people of your community.

Why Governments Need Website Archiving

Why Government Websites Should Be Archived?

Websites have become an integral part of every modern organization, including the government. Every day, a constant stream of information is being posted on the web. For governments, every data published is considered as a Public Record, which by law should be retained and disclosed to the citizens, whenever the need arises.

Public Records Laws, though it may differ per state, also mandates that public records be subjected to records management procedures and regulations issued by the state. This involves records retention and implementation of necessary safeguards against loss of records. For this reason, it is critical for government organizations to deploy electronic records archiving solutions to comply with these obligations.

Why is a Back-up not enough?

As government agencies increasingly use the web as one of their main channels in reaching out to citizens, they could in some way influence the actions and behavior of citizens and businesses. In effect, they can be held accountable for the information they disseminate on their websites. In general, any information published on a website has the same legal status as a hard copy of your documents.

Recently, disputes over website contents are on the rise. In case of a claim, a website can be used as evidence in court. Therefore, keeping a reliable back-up of all digital documents in your website is just as important as knowing what information has been delivered to your visitors. However, a simple back-up is not enough to pass as legal evidence in court.

To use digital documents in court, they need to comply with the Federal Rule of Evidence, specifically Rule # 901. This requires you to provide proof of data integrity and authenticity of each webpage you want to submit as evidence. Data authenticity means that you can prove that the web pages you present actually comes from your website and were online on a certain date. Data integrity, on the other hand, means that you can prove that the archived page has not been changed over time.

The following examples are to show how digital documents were not accepted as legal evidence in court:

1. Vinhnee vs. American Express

“In 2003, Vee Vinhee owed American Express more than $40,000 on his two credit cards. He filed for bankruptcy while American Express sued him to get him to settle the balances he owed. During the course of the case proceedings, the credit card firm presented electronic records of Vinhee’s monthly statements as evidence to the court. However, the court refused to accept these online records as evidence because the firm cannot prove authenticity of the records. AMEX appealed but lost the case in the end.”[1]

2. Lorraine vs. Markel American Insurance Company [2]

“The case of Lorraine vs. Markel American Insurance Company dealt with a lightning damage to a yacht owned by Jack Lorraine and Beverly Mack. During the proceedings, both parties offered email archives, backed up with hardcopies of the emails, as evidence to support their claims. Although both sides had no objections in presenting emails for evidence, Chief US Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm rejected the email submissions on the grounds that these documents did not comply with standards of the Federal Rules of Evidence.”[3]

3. Janssen-Ortho Inc. vs. Novopharm Limited [4]

“The suit involved a generic drug company trying to strike out expert witness evidence about drug tolerance. The expert’s affidavit merely referenced to a homepage link and did not specify nor attach any webpage to be presented as exhibits. Canada’s Federal court did not accept the affidavit as evidence on the basis that a hyperlink to a homepage was not sufficient to make the entire site and its contents as evidence.”

The PageFreezer Solution

With the right website archiving solution, you can protect your organization from violations and non-compliance issues with the Records Management laws. Regular archiving systems may be able to give you a daily backup of your website pages. However, they may not be able to provide your archive the integrity and authenticity it needs to qualify as legal evidence in case of a claim.

PageFreezer is an online service that archives your websites daily. It authenticates and maintains the integrity of your records by placing a digital signature and timestamp on each archived file. It uses certified atomic clocks to provide legal date and time.

PageFreezer also provides you with tools that allow for easy browsing and searching of your documents within your archives. More importantly, it provides you with the evidence that is important in court.

Learn more about Archiving for Government Agencies.

Governments & Archiving Costs

Governments and Archiving: “Can we afford it?”

Because your agency’s online content is increasing both in complexity and volume, and because governments are held accountable for the information they publish on the web, you need to employ a records retention policy.

So say the industry experts. But for local government leaders, it’s hard to take the advice to heart when faced with a budget that barely allows room for a functioning emergency services department. The economic downturn of 2007 caused a ripple effect felt by nearly every municipal agency. Attempting to adjust city budgets in response to huge deficits, communities have

Considering these budget strains (and the stressed-out citizens attending the town hall meetings) how can agencies be expected to concern themselves with records retention? Is it that important? The answer is: yes. Your agency’s online content (including social media, which more governments are now embracing) are considered to be public records — and the responsibility to properly preserve those records cannot be underestimated.

Don’t get caught without it!

Think of records retention for your agency as an investment like health insurance. Sometimes it’s hard to justify that monthly expense, and you wonder if it’s worth it — until someone lands a $12,000 hospital bill for an appendectomy. You don’t want to get caught without proper insurance to cover it.

Similarly, municipalities need to consider the potential costs of being caught unprepared in litigation or e-discovery proceedings. Consequences can include being made to pay attorney and litigation expenses, or being compelled to purchase e-discovery services (wouldn’t it be better to do that at your discretion?)

If your agency is found to be negligent in handling online records, you could face expenses that exacerbate your everyday budget woes, not to mention an enormous legal headache and bad publicity. Just like you would make every effort to guard against the possibility of disaster by investing in health insurance, so should government invest in a web archiving policy against the possibility of a legal or regulatory investigation.

If you’re going to do it — do it right.

The 2006 changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure indicate that all organizations (including governments) must be able to find, capture, and produce electronically stored information that might be relevant to a judicial or regulatory request. This can’t be done with server backups, CMS revision control, or other outdated methods. You need a solution that can provide indisputable proof of your online records integrity and authenticity (as required by the Federal Rules of Evidence.)

Want to know how to do it right? Website and social media archiving is a good solution for e-discovery preparedness. PageFreezer’s archiving technology uses web crawlers that capture all web pages (including social media). The pages are stored exactly as they are captured (including links, rich media, video, and Flash), which satisfies regulatory requirements for digital records. PageFreezer also provides a digital timestamp and signature for each archived page, ensuring data integrity and authenticity. With this SaaS solution (no tedious installation or software), governments can sign up and begin archiving in less than an hour.

But can we afford it??

As we’ve discussed, adopting a web archiving policy is essential. But it’s not just for big cities or the federal government. PageFreezer’s pricing is competitive so that even small towns can stay prepared. For instance, the City of DeLeon, TX recently signed up with PageFreezer as part of a Gov 2.0 Make-Over intending to show how any community can deploy technology in effective but affordable ways. The archiving policy was among the lower-priced innovations DeLeon adopted — and the ROI is invaluable.

The Internet will only continue to grow in scale and complexity, and governments are increasingly interested in how it can be used for civic growth and development.The issue of records retention must be addressed from the start so that agencies can move forward confidently online.

Can your agency afford to start archiving and properly preserving your web records?

Can you afford NOT to?

Online Records Retention

5 Tips For Online Records Retention

How is your business dealing with the issue of digital record-keeping and online document security? Do you feel confident that you could present your records as authentic evidence to a regulator or judge? How quickly could you locate and obtain particular records or web pages if you were asked to produce them? These are the hard questions that smart businesses will ask themselves in the midst of rapidly changing digital world. Financial companies, publicly traded companies, and even governments must recognize the need for retention solutions that are up-to-speed with today’s new technologies (also the new regulations and demands that accompany them.) If your online back-up plan needs an overhaul, keep these points in mind during the remodeling.

1. Fragmention is not your friend.

Document management and compliance experts say when it comes to digital records, companies can get bogged down in narrow issues rather than looking at the big picture. Backup systems, software options, and other management solutions can be distracting from a focus on the overall flow and efficiency of the company. Here’s the deal: you’ve got lots of online content. It all needs to be preserved impeccably if you’re to remain both compliant (to records laws) and prepared (for legal situations).  PageFreezer speaks to that comprehensive approach by providing regular and secure archiving of all your online activity — as much or as little as you specify. No fragmentation — just seamless, automatic preservation of your records.

2. Regulation compliance may not be enough.

While it’s nice to know you’re in line with SOX, SEC, or FINRA requirements, bear in mind that the risk of litigation against your company is a pressing issue that must be addressed.  Many companies mistakenly believe that being in compliance with records retention laws automatically means their records won’t be challenged in court. Not so! As noted by Financial Advisor Magazine in an article on the subject, courts are increasingly questioning the validity of digital records.

A stunning example of this is the 2005 case of Vee Vinhee vs. American Express Travel Related Services Company Inc. — in which Vinhee (who was filing bankruptcy while owing over $40,000 to AmEx) won his case without legal representation and without even attending the trial. Amex lost because the company rested its case on its internal computer records, which could not be proven authentic to the satisfaction of the court.

3. You have the burden of proof.

The example above highlights the fact that companies are being held responsible for proving the authenticity of their records. The court must be convinced of the fact that the records have not been tampered with. According to Judge Christopher Klein (in his comments on the Vinhee case), the key issue is that the record is what it purports to be.  Is your business prepared to shoulder the burden of proof in court? It’s not such a burden when you utilize PageFreezer — we put a digital signature and timestamp on every page to assure data integrity and authenticity. Plus, we employ powerful search features that help you find the exact records you need, when you need them.

4. Better safe than sorry.

Another case concerning the admissibility of online records was that of Lorraine vs. Markel American Insurance Company (dated May 4, 2007).  This suit dealt with lightening damage to a yacht that was owned by Jack Lorraine and insured by Marckel. Both sides presented e-mail evidence to support their claims, but the submissions were rejected by Chief U. S. Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm. He said they failed to meet the FRE standards for admissible evidence. It was a landmark ruling in the arena of digital evidence. Grimm noted in his statement about the ruling, if it is critical to the success of your case to admit into evidence computer-stored records, it would be prudent to plan to authenticate the records by the most rigorous standards that may be applied. In other words, better safe than sorry! Choose the safe route — PageFreezer preserves your archives according to the highest standards possible.

5. Delegate — and breathe easier.

The whole issue of online records retention can be a real headache in today’s ever-changing technological climate. Companies drive themselves crazy trying to stay on top of the regulations and requirements! Don’t underestimate the peace of mind that comes with delegating this matter to a reliable outside service like PageFreezer. We handle the technology and shoulder the responsibility of maintaining perfect records for your business because you have other things to do. Feel free to do them while we archive your websites — keeping your company informed, compliant, and prepared.

Online Records Compliance

Are your records being “lost in translation”?

“Governments around the world are taking a leap into the cloud,” noted Government Computer News (GCN) in an article which focused on the Department of Defense, and its unique needs in moving to cloud solutions.  Among them were security concerns, total cost of ownership, and functionality — but the issue of records compliance jumped out as a topic that all agencies should be carefully considering.  These challenges remain as more agencies continue to create digital records.  It’s a topic that simply cannot be ignored.

Online public records — keep ‘em!

As noted in the post, it’s not just the DOD that is moving more communications and services online — it’s a fast-growing percentage of cities, counties, and states across the country.  These agencies MUST recognize the potential record value of the content they publish on their web pages and social media.  Several requirements (like those in the Federal Records Act of 1950 and the E-Government Act of 2002) demand the preservation of federal public records.  State and local governments have their own varying retention laws, but one thing is becoming clear — digital records should be preserved just as meticulously as traditional records.

Cases of e-discovery and FOIA requests are the main concerns.  “[There’s a] public expectation that all web content is both permanently valuable and accessible,” noted NARA in a bulletin containing guidance on how to manage online records.  Citizens suppose that you are keeping track of info and conversations that you’ve published online in the past — including social media.  Producing digital records for legal counsel or FOIA can become very expensive if you don’t have a good retention system in place.

Lost in translation

As the DOD searches for retention solutions, said GCN’s article, the Department should recognize that not all “cloud offerings” are created equal.  Some archiving and data retention policies do not ensure perfect copies of captured files, often omitting key features like watermarks. While not as critical in some civilian applications, this type of retention just isn’t suitable for government agencies. Records should never be lost in translation, said GCN — “important documents must remain consistent as they move in and out of the cloud.”

How to archive for compliance

“Data integrity” is the phrase used to indicate a perfect, unchanged archive of a web page, file, or document.  Web archiving, which involves the capturing of online content in its original format, is accomplished in the cloud without dependency on specific technologies or databases.  That’s why archiving trumps screen shots, server back-up, “CMS revision control” and other less powerful means of preserving digital content.

But to ensure data integrity, your agency must employ an archiving solution that can provide a “digital timestamp” and “digital signature”.  Those are the key words that tell you the archives will meet legal requirements for public records AND stand as admissible evidence in court.

A good archive should ensure that your web pages (even those with complex content like video or interactive features) can always be viewed in their original form and deliver the same user experience, meeting regulatory requirements for authentic copies. Archiving guarantees your agency’s ability to exactly reproduce past online content, and to locate specific files using search technologies for FOIA requests or e-discovery cases.  In the end, having a solid archiving plan will pay for itself — saving your agency the high costs of being caught unprepared, without defensible records of your online activity.

SEC Social Media Rules

SEC says companies can use social media — if they tell investors where to look

SEC

A landmark ruling by the SEC is changing how publicly traded companies communicate with investors. Following an investigation of a CEO at Netflix who used his Facebook page to report sales figures, regulators decided that social media sites like Facebook are acceptable forums for publishing market-relevant news, as long as investors are advised to follow the social media sites where the news will be posted.

The Securities and Exchange Commission formerly frowned on social media as an avenue for communicating with shareholders, asserting that such channels violated rules about selective disclosure, which were designed to prohibit small groups of people from getting market-moving news directly from companies. Now that social media has become such a publicly-embraced phenomenon, the SEC is revising its view on how “selective” social media really is. Twitter claims 200 million monthly active users and Facebook has 1.06 billion. With figures like these, it’s obvious that social media has potential to reach even more people than company websites and market reports.

As companies move forward with even more usage of social media platforms, a few things should be kept in mind to ensure compliance:

  • Don’t neglect to tell investors to follow your social media.

This new freedom of communication comes with a stipulation — companies must alert shareholders to the channels that the company intends to use, regardless of how many followers their social media sites already have. According to the WJS Law Blog, the SEC has advised CEOs that having thousands of followers does not let them off the hook — they still have to broadcast their intentions of posting market-related news on social media.

  • Utilize multiple communication channels.

Since the SEC is concerned about fair disclosure, CEOs should take steps to make sure that market information is published through various channels (like blogs and reports) in addition to social media. This would ensure that the greatest number of people would have access to company news, clearly demonstrating the company’s intention to keep everyone informed.

  • Ensure your social media content is captured and preserved.

As social media gains footing as a viable means of communication with customers and investors, the burden to preserve records is greater than ever. Depending on the industry, companies may be required to keep business records for up to seven years — and if social media is used to share market-moving news, it is even more likely to be considered a record. CEOs can ensure compliance by employing solutions that effectively capture and store social media in case it is required during investigation or litigation.

To learn more please visit the web and social media archiving for financial compliance page.

Making Online Discovery Easy

Don’t get caught piecing together your online history

The numbers of court cases involving web content — especially social media — have continued to increase. More often than ever, a Twitter stream or Facebook page has become key evidence in court. Companies and individuals are discovering that their online history is of vital importance — and not everyone has been preserving it properly.

Without a defensible archive of your web content, you may be stuck piecing together your online records using unreliable and incomplete sources. Sometimes this type of detective work must be done by investigators, as in the case of the deleted Instagram account of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing. Authorities are re-constructing the account using the leftover digital imprints that still remain, such as the traces saved by Google’s web cache. But the suspect’s complete account could not be recovered this way, because Google’s cache stores information for variable lengths of time.

Don’t rely on backups or copies

Even when the case is not criminal, as the one described, defensible archives of online activity are critical for companies and agencies that might be involved in any type of legal or regulatory action. You certainly can’t rely on the social media sites to retain your information for any guaranteed length of time:

“Given the volume of real-time content on Instagram, some information may only be stored for a short period of time,” Instagram says on its site. “We do not retain data for law enforcement purposes unless we receive a valid preservation request.”

Similar statements on other social media sites make it clear that although the companies will produce any evidence they have upon legal request, there is no guarantee of how much they will be able to produce. The same goes for Google’s cache, server backups, and revision control (in the case of websites). These “copies” of your web content are often incomplete, unreliable, and unacceptable as evidence in court.

Take charge of your digital evidence

The answer to complete digital records lies with web and social media archiving. Providing for all your data to be systematically captured and stored guarantees your preparedness and protection in any case involving web content. A defensible archive also carries a digital timestamp and signature, ensuring its data integrity and authenticity.

There’s no excuse these days for piecing together your online records from questionable sources. The technology exists to create perfect, court-ready digital records of all your web and social media content. Archiving saves time and money when it comes to the ediscovery process — and of course, you can’t put a price on peace of mind.

Are your tweets court-ready?

What’s in a tweet? Recent cases have shown that social media posts carry more weight in court than one might suspect. It’s not only individuals that need to worry about what they post online — companies and agencies are held accountable for their social media activity too. As digital content rises in legal importance, organizations must take notice.

If you had to produce records of your company’s tweets between certain dates, or your Facebook posts on a certain topic, would you be able to do it? And if you could, are you certain they would be accepted as evidence in court?

You CAN be assured that your tweets are court-ready if you follow a few simple guidelines:

Daily capture.

Don’t miss a thing! Make sure your company employs a retention solution that captures your social media content at least daily. Lost tweets or comments are potentially lost evidence — which could lead to charges of spoliation. The transient and real-time nature of social media does not release companies from the responsibility of preserving it. As recently noted in an article from Martindale-Hubbell:

“Recent jurisprudence is clear: social media information is potentially both relevant and discoverable.”

Proof of data integrity and authenticity.

What if you are required to produce social media records for a court case? How can you be sure the data will be accepted as authentic? CNN reports:

“Legal experts say photos and videos . . . must be authenticated, meaning the prosecutors must prove the images are what they seem and have not been altered or staged. And they can’t be shown out of context.”

This certainly applies to digital evidence in the form of social media posts and any associated content. It’s a modern-day application of Rule 901 in the Federal Rules of Evidence. If digital files are presented in court, the presenter must prove that the files were online at the time alleged, and that they haven’t been altered. This is called “proof of data integrity and authenticity”.

For digital content, the golden standard for proving data authenticity is a digital timestamp and signature. Your chosen solution for preserving web content should provide these “digital fingerprints” if you want your archives to stand as evidence in court.

Secure, searchable storage.

It goes without saying that your social media files should be preserved securely. You want to ensure the safety of personally identifiable information and other sensitive information. In addition, it’s helpful if your archives are searchable. In the event of ediscovery, regulatory request for information, or your own company analytics, having searchable social media files will simplify and accelerate the process — saving time and money.

Don’t assume your social media content is private or irrelevant — recent cases have proven the opposite. But companies and agencies can continue to engage successfully online, as long as they preserve their social media records as faithfully as they would their traditional records.

Web Archiving as Legal Tool

How Web Archiving Can Be Your Most Powerful Legal Tool

Web and social media archiving have become indispensable for companies that need to comply with retention regulations like those Freedom of Information laws to preserve their online records and conversations. Web and social media archives are also key for companies in litigious industries, as the use of online content is becoming ever more common as evidence in court cases.

Besides being used as a defensive tool against regulation and litigation, web archiving can also be used proactively for many legal applications. The ability to capture an exact copy of ANY published digital content and store it in a searchable and secure database has unexpected legal advantages. Consider unleashing the potential of digital data capture in the following ways:

  • Early case assessments: Companies can peruse archives to determine the potential liability of cases before they go to court (e.g., wrongful termination, online harassment, etc.)
  • Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: According to Rule 34, responding parties must produce requested information within 30 days.  Searchable archives simplify this process for web content.
  • Web content dispute resolution: Using archives, companies can quickly resolve disputes concerning website content, domain names, or false claims — saving time and money.
  • Online error management: In dealing with mistakenly published content (e.g., products listed for the wrong price), companies can use archives to easily identify the time frame of the mistake and quickly resolve claims relating to it.
  • Monitoring of offending parties: Archiving the web content of offending parties provides a digital portfolio of information about the opposition, and provides evidence for cases relating to web content (e.g., copyright infringement).
  • Protecting digital assets: Snapshots of web content can be filed with regulators like the US Trademark Office to create a digital record of a company’s online assets.

The great thing about archiving is that you can “set it and forget it”. Determine what websites or social media you need to capture for your legal advantage, then let the technology work for you. A good archiving solution will enable you to capture only specific pages or URL paths — saving storage space and money. Make sure your archives are marked with a digital timestamp and signature to ensure their admissibility in court. Then you can enjoy the legal edge that web and social media archiving can provide for your company.