Disappearing messages, private phones test open records laws

The growing popularity of digital tools that can make text and email messages vanish may be welcome to Americans seeking to guard their privacy, but open government advocates fear they are being misused by public officials.

Some are using them to conduct business in secret and evade transparency laws.

Whether communications on those platforms should be part of the public record is a growing but unsettled debate in states across the country.

Daniel Bevarly, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, tells The Associated Press that technologies such as private messaging apps undermine state open government laws.

But some governors and state lawmakers argue that public employees should be free to communicate on private, non-governmental cellphones and social media platforms without triggering open records requirements.