Wisconsin court will decide key records case

Are the personal e-mails sent from work by Wisconsin public school teachers subject to the Wisconsin Open Records Law?

The Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has a mixed record when it comes to public access to government documents, will be deciding the case later this year.

This is an especially interesting case because the lawsuit suggests that even it is concluded that public employees have a right to send and receive the occasional e-mail from work without exposing their private life to public scrutiny, there is only one way to find out if public employees are spending what the lawsuit refers to as an excessive amount of time sending and receiving private e-mails while at work.

In other words, even emails that would ordinarily be judged private can become relevant to the public when they are looked at in order to assess how many such private e-mails public employees are sending while at work.

One response to “Wisconsin court will decide key records case

  1. Examining emails in this way would only be an approximation, of course. First, you’d want to know if the district was in fact archiving all emails, even after someone deleted one from their own mailbox. Next, it wouldn’t sample the emails exchanged on web-based email such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. If measuring time spent on non-business tasks, it would be far more interesting to see web logs from any border firewall or content-filtering appliance, which could show you how much time was spent reading web pages. If an employee knows they are violating policy by spending too much time on non-business tasks, wouldn’t they find ways to attempt to cover their tracks?

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