Letter to the editor

Mike Heck's review, "Back to the future with the whiteboard" [Federal Computer Week, Jan. 22, 2001] was a good article, but one very important point should be made.

We were about to get an electronic whiteboard about a year ago, but after talking to our legal staff we didn't get it. Why? Because anything stored on it is subject to a Freedom of Information Act request.

If a standard non-electronic whiteboard is used and people just individually copy stuff written on it, no problem. But with an electronic whiteboard, it's assumed that anything saved can be shared — and anything that can be shared is subject to FOIA.

This means that from staff-only meetings in an office, someone can put in an FOIA request for all the whiteboard notes from the meeting. Obviously, this would be a scary scenario for any government agency and prevent the open exchange of ideas needed to come to good decisions.

Unless the FOIA law is changed, government personnel should be very careful in using any electronic whiteboard. Your readers should be aware of this because it certainly wasn't obvious to anyone we talked to.

Gary Bell
Research and Development
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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