Case Study

Democracy Forward Foundation v. Department of Transportation

Uncovering Unlawful Use of Encrypted Messaging Apps by Government Officials

According to various news reports, Trump administration officials have been using encrypted and ephemeral messaging applications when conducting government business in an effort to avoid federal record retention laws.  The Washington Post, for example, reported that certain Trump Administration officials “have resorted to a secret chat app — Confide — that erases messages as soon as they’re read.”

The reported use of ephemeral communications platforms as a means of avoiding public scrutiny raises serious concerns about violations of record retention requirements under the Federal Records Act, which helps ensure federal records are preserved, among other reasons, for future Freedom of Information Act requests.

These concerns are heightened with regard to federal officials involved in sensitive White House priorities, such as the development of the Administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan.  Trump Administration officials at the Department of Transportation (DOT) have reportedly been engaged in negotiations with private businesses and foreign countries to solicit funding for the sale or financing of public infrastructure in the United States.

To understand the scope and nature of government business potentially being improperly shielded from public scrutiny, Democracy Forward filed suit in federal court demanding the release of records related to the use of encrypted and ephemeral communications applications.

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