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Florida Public Record Laws

Florida Public Record Laws – Online Records

Do you represent a Florida 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.

What Laws Govern Open Records Management in Florida State?

Open Government laws in Florida are among the most expansive in the United States and currently cover public records (Florida Statutes 119.01 to 119.15),  public meetings (the Florida Sunshine Law, Fla. Stat. secs. 286.011 to 286.012) and judicial access decisional law (with access to records and proceedings broadly granted by Florida Courts.)

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Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes specifically protects Public Records in that any records 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).

The Sunshine Amendment was added to Florida’s Constitution in 1976 and provides for full and public disclosure of the financial interests of all public officers, candidates and employees.

Do Florida 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 means all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of the physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency. 2014 Florida Statutes, 119.011.

The Florida Attorney General warned the City of Coral Springs in an advisory ruling that if the municipality creates a Facebook page, it must operate the site in a way that keeps all records accessible and all virtual meetings open to the public. (s.43. Fla. Att‘y Gen. Op. 9-19).

Information on a city’s social media page or account would communicate knowledge to the public, and (presumably) be in connection with the transaction of official business, subjecting the contents of the Facebook page to the provisions of Chapter 119, and becoming admissible as a public record.

Attorney General Opinion 08-07 also found that the use of a website, blog or message board to solicit comment between members of a board or commission on matters that would come before the board in question would trigger the requirements of the Sunshine Law.

The Florida Transparency Act 2009, formerly SB 1796, mandates the Governor’s office in Florida to create a website and requires each branch of government and agency to disclose data. The outcome of this act has been the Transparency Florida site, under which:

  • All contents of the city’s page, including information about the city’s friend list, would be subject to disclosure under Florida’s Public Records Act.
  • The city will be obligated to follow a public records retention schedule as set forth in the State of Florida General Records Schedule for State and Local Government Agencies.
  • Communications on the city’s Facebook page regarding city business would be subject to Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law.
What agencies are subject to these laws?florida_capitol

Within Florida Public Records Law, the relevant agencies include any state, county district, authority, or municipal officer, department division, board, bureau, commission, or other separate unit of government created or established by law . . . and any other public or private agency, partnership, corporation, or business entity acting on behalf of any public agency. — Fla. Stat. sec. 119.011(2). Note that Federal agencies operating in the state do not come under Florida’s Sunshine law and that a right of access to records is also recognized in the Florida Constitution which applies to virtually all governmental entities, with limited exceptions.

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

Each agency must agree to maintain, deliver, retain and dispose of public records as outlined within Fla.Stat. sec 119.021 and the appropriate records retention schedules.

As each agency increases its use of and dependence on electronic record keeping, each agency must provide reasonable public access to records electronically maintained.

In terms of social media preservation and maintenance, agencies must be aware of a number of elements to maintain an account. Whilst individual Facebook users can set privacy settings for their personal pages, a Facebook page created by a government entity, would have to be open to the public. While the personal pages of the government entity’s “friends” may or may not be public, the names on that government entity’s friend list would be subject to disclosure.

In which form do I need to archive my records?

Each agency maintaining a public record in an electronic record keeping system must provide copy of any public record in that system in the medium requested if the agency maintains the record in that medium. Fla. Stat. sec.119.01(2).

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

PageFreezer exports all data on request – in compliance with Chapter 119 of the Florida Statues and other relevant Public Records and Sunshine Laws – in the original file format if electronically stored and includes the required metadata. This data set can be transferred by FTP or other by means to the relevant Florida State Public Agency or entity.

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 complex 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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Statutory public records
Statutory public meetings
The Sunshine Amendment

Additional Resources:

Florida Constitution
The Florida Transparency Act 2009
City of Tallahassee Social Media Policy

News/ Articles
Florida’s Strong Public Record Laws
Citizens Battle for Public Records