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Pennsylvania Public Record Laws

Website & Social Media Archiving for Pennsylvania Agencies

Do you represent a Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania?

Within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State, the Right to Know laws (Act 3 of 2008) Regulates Open Records Management, facilitates requests for government and social media records, and holds agencies compliant to its standards. The state standards are modelled on and similar to federal FOIA whilst Penn State Open Records Office implement and enforce the state’s right-to-know standards.

Government agencies in Pennsylvania are also subject to the Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act, of which the fundamentals are simple: any time a government body agency holds a meeting in which deliberation of, or official business takes place, the meeting must be open to the public, as must records, minutes and notes of the meeting.

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

The Right-To-Know Law states that all records are presumed to be public record.

“Record” is defined as information, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that documents a transaction or activity of an agency and that is created, received or retained pursuant to law or in connection with a transaction, business or activity of the agency. The term also includes a document, photograph, sound recording, or information stored or maintained electronically and a data-processed or image- processed document. Therefore content placed by agencies online or on social media are – presumed – to be open records, and the onus is on the agency to show otherwise.

What agencies are subject to these laws?

Any Commonwealth agency, local agency, judicial agency and legislative agency must abide by the Right to Know Laws and Sunshine Act.

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

Agencies are to ensure that citizens are provided access to records to which they are entitled, with a burden on the Agency to establish why the record is not available, or face fines of up to $1,500 for denial of production and $500 per day if not complying with a court order to produce records. An agency should designate an official or employee to act as the open-records officer.

An agency should also utilise a comprehensive records management and archiving system so as to have easily accessible, transparent and sufficient records, and avoid fines and other penalties.

In which form do I need to archive my records?

Records and websites must be maintained in their original format and produced in the form requested by the public: HTML, CSS, PDF etc (Section 507).

Can I use a printout of my website as an official record?

No; an agency must produce a “certified copy” of records, subject to Section 904, Right to Know Law.

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

PageFreezer exports all data on request, in compliance with Pennsylvania Right to Know Laws, in the original file format including the required metadata. The data set can be transferred by FTP or other means to the Agency 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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Links:

General NARA Social Media Guidelines for Federal Bodies
Pennsylvania Right to Know law
Pennsylvania Sunshine Act
Open Government Guide
City of Philadelphia Social Media Use Policy
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania – Record Retention and Disposition Schedule with Guidelines

News/ Articles

Penn State town using Social Media for Emergency Alerts.