How can your organization improve the way in handles public records requests to avoid lawsuits?
How well do you keep up to date with legislative changes that affect your organization’s records management and public records request program?
One of several information sessions that were given during the e-Records 2019 Conference on November 15, 2019 was “Slay the Public Records Request Dragons,” which was presented by Jen Snyder, Chief Sales Officer at GovQA, and Gary Geddes, Government Solutions Account Executive at Microsoft. Read through the presentation slides, or look over Snyder and Geddes’ nine recommendations below on how technological tools can improve and facilitate your public information request (PIR) program.
Proactive Data Sharing
Create an open data portal that provides appropriate sharing to the public so that requestors can find the information they need. In other words, make data available and accessible to the public from the start, which eliminates the whole request process altogether. As Snyder and Geddes said, “the simplest request to process is the one you never receive.”
If you receive a lot of the same type of records request, give requestors a consistent message to save time (e.g., response templates). You can also use machine-learning and e-discovery tools to eliminate duplication of efforts and to help requestors collect the information they need.
Make it easier for all of the departments or organizations that are involved in fulfilling a public records request to share data with each other by using technological tools that control the information-sharing environment so that only those who are authorized have access, all the data that is shared is tracked, and the requestor will receive an authentic, high-quality document.
Identifying Personal Information
Avoid accidentally including inappropriate, non-relevant, or personally identifiable information (PII) when fulfilling public records requests by using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and modern redaction tools that can search and compile multiple documents into one while eliminating information that can lead to privacy violations.
Track those who participated in completing a public records request and the data that was given to a requestor for audit trail purposes. If you have a centralized location to fulfill public records requests, internal participants can work from one record copy, and the system will make a distinction between redacted and unredacted versions so that requestors will be provided with the appropriate version.
Securing in the Cloud
Snyder and Geddes recommend storing data using a secure and compliant cloud provider that can meet government criminal justice and public tax information standards.
Planning to Adapt
With reference to S.B. 944, if your organization allows its employees to create and receive government and public records on their private devices, use Mobile Device Management solutions that can isolate those records from the private messages of employees.
To avoid or to reduce requestors appealing any records withholdings or redactions, there are tools available that objectively decide, using programmed rules, whether certain data is allowable or justifiable for release regarding public information requests.
Snyder and Geddes advise using tools that are adaptable in order to readily comply with any changes in state and local government requirements.
Lastly, Snyder mentioned that GovQA software allows you to track who (e.g., employees, customers, etc.) is making certain public information requests, and you can decide how you want to use that data to improve your PIR processing. It also allows the public to make PIR requests through the GovQA system so that the agency or local government can continue to track various types of user data.