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Indiana Public Record Laws

Website & Social Media Archiving for Indiana State Agencies

Do you represent a Indiana 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 Records Management in the State of Indiana?

Indiana Access to Public Records §§5-14-3-1 et seq. (APRA) governs Open Records laws in the State of Indiana. It is the public policy of the state that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and employees. Indiana Open Door Law (affecting public meetings and official action on public business law) also operates in this public interest. (I.C. §§5-14-1.5-1 et seq.)

“[A] fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government is that government is the servant of the people and not their master. “ (Indiana Coalition for Open Government).

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

Yes they do. NARA state that it 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.

The Act does not differentiate between different forms of records, as if a record is “created, received, maintained, or filed by or with a public agency,” Ind. Code § 5-14- 3-2, even online, it should be subject to these provisions.

A public record is “any writing, paper, report, study, map, photograph, book, card, tape recording, or other material that is created, received, retained, maintained, or filed by or with a public agency . . . magnetic or machine readable media, electronically stored data, or any other material, regardless of form or characteristics.” Ind. Code § 5-14-3-2. —This means that almost any document or material, so long as it is not privileged and is relevant to the subject matter involved.

Case Law Excerpt: Re: Formal Complaint 13-FC-250, Regarding the alleged violation of the access to Public Records Act and Open Door Law by the Town of Morristown.“Social media has not been addressed ad nauseum in prior opinions. The ever-changing landscape of electronic communication presents unique challenges for determining the accessibility of public information. Although [I do not suggest the Town intentionally violated the APRA], it is important to note public agencies should not use social media as a way of avoiding the obligations of the law.It is my opinion that Facebook data clearly falls within this definition. If a public agency creates a website or social media account and maintains its content, then any records request relevant to that site would need to be fulfilled.As to the allegation the site has deleted your comment(s), it is my opinion an agency can moderate comments to a social media site as they see fit….. The caveat to this is the agency must retain a copy of the comment or discussion and also make them available for inspection….however the information presents itself. The important consideration to remember is that all comments to an agency web site must be retained.”
What agencies are subject to these laws?

Because of the expansive definition of public agency and public records within Ind. Code § 5-14-3-2,chances are most state entities fall within the act.

“Public agency” is defined broadly as to include any “board, commission, department, agency, authority, or other entity … exercising a portion of the executive, administrative, or legislative power of the state…. or a delegated local governmental power entity subject to budget review involving government funds”.

“Governing body” may include a board, commission, authority, council, committee or entity that takes official action on public business.

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

Providing persons with the information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of public officials and employees. It is in an ethical approach that Indiana Open Records provisions should be liberally construed to implement this policy. (Indiana Code § 5-14-3-1.)

Ind. Code § 5-14- 3-3(d) states; “A public agency that maintains or contracts for the maintenance of public records in an electronic data storage system shall make reasonable efforts to provide to a person making a request a copy of all disclosable data contained in the records on paper, disk, tape, drum, or any other method of electronic retrieval if the medium requested is compatible with the agency’s data storage system.” No reported case law interpreting this provision of the Act or addressing metadata.

In which form do I need to archive my records?

Websites must be retained in their original format: HTML, CSS, PDF etc. The format of information, for example electronic or transient versions, should not affect the mandatory disclosure of it. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-6(b)

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

PageFreezer exports all data on request in the original file format including the required metadata. This data set can be transferred by FTP or by other means to the Oregon State or Agency Digital Archives.

How can PageFreezer help our agency?

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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Additional Resources:

City of EvansvilleAccess to Public Records