Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Who own's Minnesota's e-mail, Microsoft or you.?

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the State of Minnesota has signed an agreement with Microsoft to be the storage hub for its e-mail, instant messaging, among other kinds of services.  The service is called "clouding", or in other words a third party serving as a repository for the state's email, etc. with some added attractions.

The press release by the Minnesota Office of Technology praises the agreement with lowering costs and improved security.  How is my e-mail to the Governor or someone else in the government going to be more secure?  Who owns the information now that it is in the hands of a third party?  Where is the location of the data? The old motto of I keep and control the stuff then I know it is safe, secure, and accessible may no  longer apply with aspects of our states data.

Will this improve my ability to get quick and easy access to public government records next time I want to find out what a State Commissioner or a Governor is doing on an issue, or how a policy was developed? Or is this one more barrier for the citizen?

Monday, September 27, 2010

OH Really!

This weekend a person asked me if she had a right to material about her that a work supervisor was referencing to her about.  She explained to me what it was and I said yes.  I said there is state law that allow employees access to their personnel files.  Her comment was, Oh Really!   The state law is Minnesota Chapter 181.960 to 181.966.

Many people are unaware of their legal and statutory rights.  How can people be notified of their rights?  Is it up to the individual to find out or should the employer let her know in the above scenario?  Notification of rights is an important concept if people are going to be aware of them and to be able to use them.

Many government agencies will put on their web sites the statutory rights they enforce and some description of the law. I decided to visit the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry website to see if their is a reference to the personnel law that by law they enforce.  Low and behold there is not.  I put in a call to the supervisor of that enforcing unit to let her know about the omission.  When the person calls back and I tell them about my website experience, will they say , "Oh Really".

Friday, September 24, 2010

War Protesters, Supreme Court, and The First Amendment .

In June of this year the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case that many people in Minnesota may know nothing about.  At the core of the case is what is "material support to terrorism" and does it affect the First Amendment rights of U. S. citizens.  The events that happened today in Minneapolis by the FBI raid may be a catalyst for us to find out. The FBI searched the homes of individuals for evidence of material support to terrorism.

The Court decided by 6-3 vote that it is not a violation of First Amendment rights to arrest and convict people of giving certain kinds of material support to terrorists. The Court upheld the part of federal statute that was in question.  The case is Holder v  Humanitarian Law.

To take a little liberty with the last couple of sentences in the dissent of the case,  it should be asked,  Are these people in Minneapolis being deprived of the protection that the First Amendment demands?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who is on the List? And who is not?

From my previous post on August 7th I talked about how a legislative created work group is meeting at the BCA to  discuss how law enforcement should collect and use information on their citizens for intelligence purposes.

To the credit of the group they have decided that it will comply with the open meeting law.  This means it is open to the public.  It was their third meeting today.  Law enforcement agencies made presentations on how they collect and use intelligence information.  It became quite clear that law enforcement agencies may soon be collecting information on citizens at an unprecedented level.

On October 13th, there will be presentations by such groups as the public defenders, community groups, and the Minnesota  ACLU.  The following meeting they will begin to discuss what they should recommend to the legislature.  There will be an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the recommendations.

All agendas, minutes, documents, etc, and audio of the meetings are at the BCA website.