I see innumerable problems with this bad idea!
Excerpts from the Article:
Top officials at the Michigan State Police have been using text messaging encryption devices that can put their internal communications out of the reach of the Freedom of Information Act and legal discovery, according to admissions the MSP made in a civil lawsuit.
Among those who have downloaded the “end-to-end” encryption applications onto their state-issued phones are a lieutenant-colonel, two majors and two first lieutenants, according to court records obtained by the Free Press.
The use by top MSP officials of the encryption devices — under which text messages, once deleted, can leave no record on either the phone or the state of Michigan server — was disclosed recently in a federal lawsuit brought against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Col. Joseph Gasper, who is the director of the department, and the MSP.
Earlier, the department also admitted that both Gasper, and the manager of the MSP records section, Lori Hinkley, who oversees FOIA requests, had also installed and used the technology on their state phones. But late on Thursday, after the Free Press made inquiries about the encryption apps, the MSP sent the plaintiffs a corrected filing, through the state Attorney General’s Office, which denied that Gasper and Hinkley had used the encryption app on their state phones, contrary to the earlier admission.
Top officials at the Michigan State Police have been using “end-to-end” encryption technology which can put their internal text messages out of the reach of Freedom of Information Act requests and legal discovery, the department has admitted in a lawsuit.
The use of such applications by government employees — not necessarily with official authorization — is a growing concern among advocates for government transparency. It appears to fly in the face of Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, which says records of communications between public officials, outside of specific exceptions, are public record. It also appears to violate the spirit of a 2019 Whitmer executive directive, which related to emails, rather than text messages, but said emails “may not be disposed of by a state department or autonomous agency except in compliance with an applicable record retention schedule.”
Signal, which is a free-to-the-user app funded by grants and donations, says on its website: “We can’t read your messages or listen to your calls, and no one else can either.”
Hahn said the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget should explicitly ban the use of end-to-end encryption applications by state employees, if it has not already.
“Every member of the Michigan State Police has had multiple training sessions on the importance of preserving government-related texts on devices owned by the people, and to not conduct government business on privately owned devices,” Hahn said.
“Col. Gasper and his executive level commanders have had this training many times and know better, yet here we are. What a fine example they’re setting for junior officers and the troopers. Is that transparency?”
“Any attempt to avoid transparency by those the taxpayers employ is unacceptable — even more so for police employees in an era where accountability and transparency has never been more important in gaining the public trust,” McGraw said.
Further, “law enforcement is already afforded a level of coverage that prevents access through the public’s inability to obtain body camera footage, personnel information and other records exempt from FOIA,” she said.