How Should Business Records, Personal Devices Mix?

Lora Bentley

In an age when technology options abound and an always-on mentality is prevalent, it's a given that often we use our personal devices to conduct business. So what's a person to do when those business e-mails on a personal BlackBerry or iPhone need to be maintained as a business record? President Obama brought this issue to the forefront last year when he told officials he wouldn't give up his smartphone when he moved into the Oval Office.


San Jose, Calif., councilmen are addressing the issue now, according to Mercury News. They are working toward establishing a policy by which e-mails and text messages on personal devices that discuss city business will be part of the public record, but they are running into unexpected roadblocks. For instance, the story says:

Councilman Pete Constant, a prolific text massager and Facebooker, noted for example that after checking with AT&T, he found there is no way for him to export text messages from his personal iPhone to his official city e-mail system, where anyone could retrieve them under a public records request.

Does that mean the councilman should not use his personal iPhone or his Facebook page at all for business? It could. Mercury News says the city is considering a policy that would require council members to use only city e-mail for official business and would also prohibit text messaging and e-mailing during council meetings.


The city of Saratoga, Fla., has implemented a similar policy. But Councilman Constant isn't convinced it's realistic. "Text messages are a way of life for people," he told the Mercury News. I tend to agree. Service providers are probably working on making text-messages exportable to e-mail systems. In the meantime, businesses and governments need to develop policies on the issue. If they don't, it will more than likely come back to haunt them.

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