Sunrise over V.A. Capitol.

Technology Nomenclature Workgroup
September 7, 2004, Richmond

The Technology Nomenclature Workgroup, headed by FOIA Council staff, met on September 7, 2004 to discuss whether any amendments were needed to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to correct obsolete technology terms. The workgroup meeting was attended by representatives of the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA), the Virginia Press Association, the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the Fairfax County Privacy Council, and the Virginia Association of Counties, as well as other interested parties. The charge of the workgroup was limited to the definition of "public records," the provisions concerning the production of electronic records found in § 2.2-3704, and the electronic meeting provisions found in § 2.2-3708.

The representative of VITA indicated that the agency had no problems with the technology terms found in the definition of "public records" and suggested that they should remain as is found in current law because the technologies mentioned were still in use.

The workgroup briefly discussed the distinction between uses of the terms "format" and "medium" found in § 2.2-3704 and decided that no further clarification was necessary.

The representative of VITA presented a draft that would introduce the use of the term "information systems" in various sections of FOIA. However no definition for this term was provided and it was the consensus of the work group that "information systems" did not help to clarify FOIA, but instead created ambiguity. Staff noted that the only definition in law for "information systems" was found in § 2.2-3801 of the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act and applied only to that act.1As a result, this VITA recommendation was rejected by the workgroup. A Virginia Press Association representative cautioned the workgroup about mixing up concepts. He stated that for the purposes of security, it did not matter whether the record was in paper or electronic form. The workgroup agreed and stated that it was not within their purview to make substantive changes to FOIA exemptions related to public safety. The workgroup did note, however, that the issue of security of information systems was best addressed by a rewrite of the existing exemption found in subdivision 3 of § 2.2-3705.2.2

Finally the workgroup discussed § 2.2-3708 which requires notice of all electronic meetings be sent to VITA. Staff indicated that from a practical perspective, it was unclear to whom in VITA such notices should be sent and what, if anything, VITA did with the information. Section 2.2-3708 also requires reports from state public bodies concerning their experiences with conducting electronic meetings be filed with VITA. The VITA representative stated that VITA had no problem with receiving the notices and reports, but was unsure of the utility in providing them to the agency. It was also noted that under the pilot program for electronic meetings3, the FOIA Council was one of the recipients for reports required to be filed under the program's provisions. It was recommended that the FOIA Council replace VITA as the agency for receiving notice and reports of electronic meetings to be consistent with the pilot program and because electronic meetings are within the purview of the FOIA Council. The workgroup will recommend to the full FOIA Council that the above-described amendment be made to § 2.2-3708.

1 "Information system" means the total components and operations of a record-keeping process, including information collected or managed by means of computer networks and the global information system known as the Internet, whether automated or manual, containing personal information and the name, personal number, or other identifying particulars of a data subject.
2 Subdivision 3 of 2.2-3705.2 provides an exemption for " [D]ocumentation or other information that describes the design, function, operation or access control features of any security system, whether manual or automated, which is used to control access to or use of any automated data processing or telecommunications system."
3 See 1999 Acts of Assembly, c. 704, as amended by Acts 2002, c.910; Acts 2002, c. 429; and Acts 2003 c. 346.