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California Public Record Laws

California Public Records Laws – Online Records

Do you represent a California State Government Agency and wondering how you should archive all your web and social media content? Are you trying to determine what you need to do both from a legal and a technical point of view? Here’s a guide to the different Laws and processes you should follow.

golden-gate-bridgeWhat Laws govern Records Management in California?

California has a number of local and state laws and provisions for Public and Open Records Management, including California Public Records Act, (§6250 – 6276.48 of the California Government Code), the Legislative Open Records Act (Cal. Gov’t Code § 9070, et. seq. California), and the Constitutional Sunshine Amendment Act (Cal. Const. Art. I, § 3(b))

California Open Records Laws are modelled on the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), with the additional provision that

“the people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business”
Article of the California Constitution due to California Proposition 59 (the Sunshine Amendment)

When applying the California Public Records Act (CPRA), courts may look to case law under FOIA for guidance.

California Government Code §6250 – 6276.48 states that all California public agencies must provide access to records that are created by or associated with an agency in the discourse of its official duties in the best interest of the public.

Do California State Records Laws include Website and Social Media content?

Yes, they do. NARA state that that is a “[P]ublic expectation that all web content is both permanently valuable and accessible” – and so social media and web records are subject to these standards as well as the relevant metadata being pertinent to these laws.

Public records in the CPRA are defined as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics”, intended to cover every form of records pertinent to governmental, public interest or official decision-making processes, thereby covering social media content. Electronic records are also included. (§§ 6253.9(a),(g), 6254.9 (a),(d))


California open record legislation must provide for and pertain to any new forms of developing record-keeping. Currently, more than 100 cities, counties and agencies have adopted social media policies that expressly state, “social media sites are subject to the CPRA”.

California Technology Agency and Proposition 42 have established Social Media standards specifically for the engagement of government entities, as it is estimated that Californian agencies use and maintain 161 Twitter accounts, 157 Facebook pages and 119 YouTube Channels.

What agencies are subject to these laws?

These laws apply to all state and local agencies, including: “[A]ny officer, bureau, or department…any board, commission or agency created by the agency…and nonprofit entities that are legislative bodies of a local agency”. (§ 6252(a),(b)). State and regional agencies are required to have written public record policies and structures in place.

Proposition 42 amended the California State Constitution requiring local governments abide by the CPRA.

What is my agency required to do in line with these regulations?

Access to records must be granted upon request, immediately if during business hours. (§ 6253(a)).

Your agency must provide assistance in identifying records requested records promptly (§ 6253.1).

In “unusual” cases (request is “voluminous,” seeks records held off-site, requires consultation with other agencies, etc.), the agency may, upon written notice to the requesters, give itself an additional 14 days to respond. (§ 6253(c)) however these guidelines may not be used just to delay access to the records. (§ 6253(d)).

The agency may never make records available only in electronic form. (§ 6253.9(e)).

In which form do I need to archive my records?

Websites and other electronic records must be retained in their original format: HTML, CSS, PDF; and cannot simply be transmitted either by electronic mail or CD-ROM.

How can we transfer website archives made with PageFreezer to the California State Digital Archives?

PageFreezer exports all data on request – in compliance with §6250 – 6276.48 of the California Government Code in the original file format including the required metadata. This data set can be transferred by FTP or other by means to the California State Digital Archives.

How can PageFreezer help our agency?socialicons_sm

PageFreezer has been working on our Archiving technology and processes since 2006 – We know how to properly archive Web Sites, Blogs and Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Just ask any of our over 500 clients including US Cities, Counties and other Government Agencies as well as Multinationals, Financial Service Firms, Healthcare Providers …

Our clients know our technology is secure, reliable and authenticated. More importantly they appreciate the ease-of-use.

That’s why our sophisticated technology is simple to use – The archiving is automatic and retrieval is a matter of signing in, going to the date you want, and browsing your site just like you did when the content was just published.

If you have questions about any of this or about how to actually implement effective Online Public Records management start a free trial, schedule a demo or contact us directly.


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Guide to California Public Records Act
California Social Media Standards
General NARA Social Media Guidelines for Federal Bodies

NARA bulletins provide fundamental guidance to Federal agencies to determine the most appropriate ways to incorporate record keeping requirements into their business processes in compliance with the Federal Records Act.

Open Government Guidelines

These guidelines comprehensively outline open government law and practices in the United State to fully inform citizens of their federal and state rights of access to information

Additional Resources:

California Public Records Act Wikipedia Resource Page
Orange County Social Media Policy

This document establishes countywide social media use policies, protocols and procedures intended to mitigate associated risks from use of Web 2.0 where possible to meet business mission and goals.

Project Open Data

News/ Articles

Public Records v Discovery Request
The Background Records Blog – Synopsis of Californian Records Law