SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Several high ranking San Francisco officials are using an encrypted messaging app to communicate that allows the text to self-destruct so they cannot be retrieved even with a court order, according to a report published Thursday.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin confirmed that the city leaders use the app called Telegram following a Business Insider report quoting an article published on the on-line information service The Information.
“It’s certainly not being used by us to evade public records requests. It’s actually about efficiency, and is a very convenient application to have a group discussion. But I am very aware of the law so I don’t use it to communicate with a majority of the board of supervisors or with a majority of any committee that I sit on. I’m quite clear on that,” Peskin said.
The app gained notoriety after it found on the telephone of one of the ISIS terrorist involved in the Paris massacre.
On Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes, CBS’ Leslie Stahl interviewed Pavel Durov, the inventor of the app.
“In private messages, we have this secret chat feature which provides you with a self-destruct timer,” Durov told Stahl. “You could set a specific amount of time, like a few seconds, or a minute or a week, after which the message would disappear.”
According to the articles published Thursday, a city hall source told The Information that they were encouraged to use the app and that several members of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors were using it.
The source told The Information that officials were using the app to skirt California open records requirements.
“Apparently this app has many different features. As an old guy, I don’t really know all those features. But none of these group conversations self destruct. There are apparently other settings I couldn’t tell you about, but all of those records have been maintained and are available to the public. There are many apps. There’s an application a day. This application, I have only used for a few weeks. Some interesting questions have been raised, and we are consulting with the city attorney about that. And, until those questions are answered, I’m not going to use this app for any public business. It’s no different than using email or text messages and we are extremely transparent. Most of what we do actually happens in public at the board of supervisors meeting. But until these questions – and they’re good questions – have been answered by the city attorney, I’m not going to use this app for any public business,” Peskin said.
According to the California’s Public Records Act, communication and emails are considered part of the public record if they relate to public business.