The HB477 Working Group and Making Utah a Little More Open

The press release just went out. I’m going to be joining the Utah State Senate-sponsored working group, aiming to bring Utah’s open records laws into the 21st century. I’ll be among other notables such as Phil Windley (CTO, co-founder of Kynetx and former Utah State CTO, founder, Internet Identity Workshop), who are all experts in this field of open standards and technologies. This is a great move for the state of Utah.

Having written 3 books on Facebook and Facebook technologies, having written an entire site devoted to helping improve a brand’s reputation on Twitter, MySpace (and soon Facebook), and having consulted in helping brands, big and small across the web to integrate “social” technologies, I think I can really help in this effort. Facebook’s core focus, and value, is surrounding privacy. With Facebook, I can fine tune who sees my messages, how public I want them to be, and ensure my close friends and family are protected, while sharing my more public life with others. (did I mention my phone number is 801-853-8339 and my email address is jesse@staynalive.com? Yes, I’m happy to share.)

Many of you know I have a Twitter account with near 30,000 followers (btw, numbers don’t mean a thing so don’t let that number make you think I’m any better than any of you). What you may not know is that I actively choose which of my updates actually go out to Twitter. I automate my privacy. I automate how I want to share data. Our government could, and should be doing the same.

It is based on this experience, and my experience helping other businesses, organizations, and brands, that I  hope I can help the state of Utah incorporate the same types of philosophies. The default for our Legislature (and I could argue our national governments as well) should be, “share with everyone” on any electronic correspondance. Then, legislators should be able to actively pick and choose items that do not go public when the privacy of an individual is at stake. Or, perhaps we could even automate that process.

I’ll share more of my vision in the future. I’d also like to do more research. But I intend for this to be an open, honest process. I will be blogging along the way. The first question I asked them when I joined was if the sessions would be streamed online. They will, and I’ll make sure you know how to access those. I want you to comment and participate – I’ll make sure we have multiple avenues for that to happen. If I’m not being open enough let me know – this entire process should be the epitome of what this group is set out to do. I intend to eat my own dog food.

If you have any ideas or suggestions you would like me to bring to this group, please discuss in the comments. No idea is too stupid for this.

As a final disclosure, yes, I do manage the “Repeal HB477” Facebook Page. I’ve been clear about my opinions on this. I don’t intend for that to go away, nor do my opinions surrounding that go away. I do believe in coming up with a solution however, and more than any type of “repeal” legislature I want a solution that is fair, balanced, supports the citizens of Utah (as well as the Press), but at the same time allows citizens the privacy they need when they talk to their elected representatives. That’s just my opinion though – I want to go in with all of your opinions as well so please let me know your thoughts!

Lastly, just to be clear up front (remember, this is an open process), I do currently work for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. No, I am not entering this position as an employee of the Church. It is in no way affiliated, sponsored, directed, nor suggested by the Church in any way. This is simply a part of my professional consulting practice that I do on the side, and I intend to approach it as such. I will not be reporting to the Church on any of this, nor will they have any part in this process. I just want to be clear on that. Any comment here, in the group, or elsewhere surrounding this working group and the policies discussed are my own opinions and not to be construed as anything else.

So what ideas do you have for me? What can I bring into this working group? What other examples should I look towards as we approach this difficult subject?

Image courtesy http://www.showmepolicypulse.org/news/2009/03/advocates-push-for-changes-to-missouri-open-records-law/

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8 thoughts on “The HB477 Working Group and Making Utah a Little More Open

  1. Go to back to GRAMA. It was good. In fact, expand it. All but strictly personal communications should be posted on the Internet.

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  2. Since GRAMA is one of the best open records laws in the US. I would like to suggest a litmus test. If any changes are to be made to GRAMA, it has to accompany unprecedented proof the law failed in that particular section of the law. No testimonials, nor determents to open communication and thought process or extreme, uncommon example of abuse. Proof that some abuse within the law is constant and substantial and not an unusual event.
    Where does it say that a person or entity contacting our State representatives have the right to privacy.
    The legislature should not be exempt from the current GRAMA process for any reason. Nor do we need a separate commission because they believe themselves special. All state agencies and personnel and elected officials are the same. Public servant, Public business, Public record.
    The balancing test needs to remain on the side of the PUBLIC. The owner of the information.
    There is a provision in HB 477 that talks about reclassifying some PROTECTED records. One would be records that may be anticipated to be a part of litigation is very dangerous to the community in its language and intent. This means that it can be interpreted to allow them to seal or protect any record that could be inflammatory to the state or be cause to a law suit.
    Examples would be where police shot and killed a suspect, the state being nervous about possible law suit over the circumstances of the shooting should not be able to PROTECT information related to the shooting. This has come up in the last few years and is a perfect example of how this proposed change in the law can hurt the public’s right to know.

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  3. With no question, I am in favor of keeping private things private for individual citizens in this country. This is a basic right that needs to be protected, but transparency in government is something yet again. The minute someone decides to run for public office, public “decisions” are just that and belong to all of us. Anything that affects our lives needs to be on the table. I am also concerned that laws restricting access to government records will spill over into other areas. Even documents pertaining to family history could be off limits to those of us who are involved in research. (This isn't far fetched). The cost is already prohibitive. At least, it is something to think about. I think I've thought about it a lot longer than anyone did in the legislature when they passed this bill.

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  4. The current Hippa Law was passed to protect an individual's health records, but it has also made it harder to get access to information about people on our pedigree charts. I don't think it was intended to do that, but as so often happens, not all consequences were considered. That is just one example. The cost for having a search done in a county court house or county clerk's office has skyrocketed and access is almost impossible whereas a few years ago, it was relatively easy to do on site research. While the internet has given more people more access to 'some' information, for those who want to dig a little deeper, they mostly have to dig deeper into their own pockets. One of the things I take issue with most are passing laws without considering all the ramifications and as we have so recently learned, it is a lot harder to get a law off the books than to put one there – and a lot more expensive.

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