As we have entered into the 21st century we encounter more and more documents created electronically. Under the Freedom of Information Law most records are available to the public. What designates a record? From the Committee on Open Government web site the following explanation is given:
§86(4) defines the term “record” to include:"any information kept, held, filed, produced, reproduced by, with or for an agency or the state legislature, in any physical form whatsoever including, but not limited to reports, statements, examinations, memoranda, opinions, folders, files, books, manuals, pamphlets, forms, papers, designs, drawings, maps, photos, letters, microfilms, computer tapes or discs, rules, regulations or codes."
What this means is that if a government agency creates a document electronically then the public has the right to inspect that document. A secretary typing a memo into a word processing program is creating a record. A clerk typing meeting minutes into a word processing program is also creating a record. Those records are available under FOIL according to the Committee on Open Government. The Committee maintains a web site which can be visited by clicking here . Available on that site is a rather voluminous area of FAQs or Frequently Asked Questions. One can view these FAQs by clicking here.
The Committee on Open Government is regularly asked to comment on questions pertaining to whether or not certain records should be made available to the public and the Committee on Open Government has posted their Advisory Opinions here. As to electronic files one can navigate to the "C" section and scroll down to the section relating to computer files.
I have also included a pdf document from the Committee on Open Government web site entitled
"THE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW, a/k/a the “FOIL” .
The document can be downloaded by clicking here.