In theory, the changeover from paper to email should make government more transparent. The cost of archiving documents should be lower, because data can be housed on relatively small hard drives rather than in spacious warehouses. Likewise, the time expense of retrieving that data should be reduced, because it can be obtained through a few keystrokes rather than a tedious search of file cabinets.
Consequently, open records requests should be far easier to fulfill, because electronic correspondence and memos are keyword searchable. Yet two New York politicos are showing that the era of Big Data does not necessarily mean the public gets a better view of its government.
The first is Hillary Clinton, the Empire States former senator. According to reports this week in The New York Times and Associated Press, Clinton avoided using a government email address as US secretary of state, instead conducting State Dept. business through a personal account on her own private server. The Times notes that the practice protected a significant amount of her correspondence from the eyes of investigators and the public.
According to one legal expert, Clintons move may have run afoul of the spirit if not the letter of rules governing federal records.