Lack of Paper Trail Creates Controversy Over Use of Blackberry PIN Numbers

States are taking notice of newer forms of "record-less" electronic communications that may circumvent public records laws.  Blackberry PIN messaging is drawing scrutiny when used by officials whose correspondence is otherwise subject to open records release and retention.  PIN messaging is similar to text messaging and more instantaneous than e-mail.  Once two users exchange PIN numbers, they can communicate via instant message on their Blackberry devices.  Like text messaging, PIN messaging does not create an external, permanent and fully accessible record of the typed communications.  Cell phone providers must maintain a log of text messages that can be subpoenaed if necessary, but the length of time that they are saved depends on the providers.  (See our previous blog entry on text messaging.) According to the St. Petersburg Times, Blackberry PIN messaging is becoming increasingly commonplace.  The newspaper reported that three Florida Public Service Commission staffers were reassigned or put on administrative leave because they gave their Blackberry PIN numbers to a Florida Power & Light lobbyist.  The sending and receiving of PIN messages by Florida public employees violates Florida public records laws, which state that all documents created by public agencies must be recorded regardless of their form.