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White House use of encrypted messaging may violate law.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, senior Trump administration aides are using encrypted messaging apps to communicate, which might violate federal recordkeeping laws.

The Journal reported that aides close to the president are using Signal, which encrypts data end to end. The app was reportedly used by some staff in the Obama administration as well.

The incentive to encrypt may have been boosted by the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. But by keeping such communications private, the administration may be violating the Presidential Records Act, which requires staff to keep records of conversations.

The article quotes Michael Morisy, founder of news site MuckRock: "If new agency appointees are using Signal or other disappearing message apps routinely for work, even if it's not classified, that's a serious lapse in records retention policy. Email retention is still a huge struggle, and I have a hard time believing that Signal messages are properly being archived."

Alex Howard, an executive with the Sunlight Foundation, says it's "a recipe for corruption" and a "willful effort not to be held accountable."

According to U.S. federal law, all records of government business must be preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) within a few days of their creation. While a 2014 update to the law expanded the tools that federal employees can use, allowing a wider range of instant messaging and social media platforms for communication, it did not exempt them from being archived. Data generated on apps like Signal cannot be captured and therefore cannot be archived; any back-up efforts would have to be self-policed.

The White House did not respond to requests from the Journal on whether the new administration had set up data retention policies for its encrypted messaging.

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Article Details
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Publication:Information Management Journal
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2017
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