Michigan bill would ban agencies from using messaging apps

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A bill to prevent Michigan state agencies from using messaging apps to avoid Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) compliance has made its way to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office. If signed, it would ban the use of apps like Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp on government-issued devices.

According to Representative Steven Johnson, R-72, the legislation came in after a Detroit Free Press The article said senior Michigan State Police (MSP) officials were using an instant messaging app to send and permanently delete messages.

The MSP initially admitted to using the app in a civil trial and later said that a lieutenant colonel, two majors and two first lieutenants were using the app on their state-issued phones.


To address this particular situation, the Michigan State Police Director has instructed officers to remove unapproved apps from their state phones and seek permission before downloading such apps in the future.

“There is no way to verify the information once it is permanently deleted,” Johnson said. “In this case, they were trying to pretend that they weren’t deleting a lot of these messages, but again, there’s no way to verify it.”

Another area of ​​concern is maintaining transparency between state agencies, said the co-sponsor of the bill, Representative Robert Bezotte, R-47.

“Since the MSP is obviously a law enforcement agency, everything has to be upfront, transparent and available for the defense or prosecutors to see what’s going on,” Bezotte said. “When I look at the bills, I look at them like you know, is that right?” And this one is certainly right.

An additional concern, he said, is answering the question of using another app in the same way.

“We covered the one the state police were using, but is there another app? Added Bezotte.

Johnson expressed a similar message, saying, “I think that’s it, but who knows. We need to give Michigan people a certain level of trust and not hide things like it was that way. “

As for how this affects FOIA, the law will not change the way the state interacts with the FOIA process, said Caleb Buhs, director of communications for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget. State.

The way FOIA works is for the department to review information based on the content provided, not the channel from which it was derived, Buhs explained. Once this information has been reviewed, a retention schedule is defined.

“The sponsors of the bill saw in our acceptable use policy that it is not allowed to use unapproved applications in state government,” he said. “The bill codifies this issue. “

Once the bill is passed, the ministry will be responsible for providing direction to all public bodies regarding the use of any application, software or other technology that prevents it from maintaining or preserving a public record on an electronic device.

As of yet, Buhs said, the department has not developed a process for sharing information about the use of banned apps with state agencies and employees. However, he suspects that email will be the best medium.

Katya Maruri is a writer for Government Technology. She holds a BA in Journalism and an MA in Global Strategic Communications from Florida International University.

See more stories from Katya Maruri


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