Gilley Proposes Warning To Anyone Contacting Escambia County By Email Or Online

June 14, 2021

Escambia County Administrator Janice Gilley is proposing a warning to anyone contacting the county by email that their IP address may be public record.

The move comes after an anonymous Escambia County employee made an anonymous public records request in an apparent effort to potentially reveal the identity of the person that made an anonymous email records request for documents. The county received an email request in late April from an email address with no name — an email that on the surface appears to not identify the sender.

“The IT Director (Siders) believed it would be unethical, and a violation of the anonymity provisions in Chapter 119 (Florida public records law) as a public entity, to effectively identify that person making the request through providing their IP address. I agreed with his decision,” Gilley wrote.

Escambia County Attorney Alison Rogers disagreed, saying the header containing IP addresses is part of the email and thus public record.

“Under Florida law, a public record must be disclosed unless there is a specific exemption,” Rogers told NorthEscambia.com. “We consulted with the Attorney General’s Office. They found no exemption and advised that it was a public record that must be disclosed.”

This Thursday, Gilley is asking the county commission for new warnings to the public that their IP address might be disclosed.

“This will provide further notice to the public,” Gilley said in a written memo.

“It is common knowledge that providing a specific IP address is similar to providing the location or name of the person who sent the message. IP addresses are unique, and disclosing the IP address of the anonymous citizen in question could ultimately reveal that person’s identity and render them anonymous no more — which could be in violation of the law. So the County will change the disclaimers to appropriately notify the public,” Gilley continued.

In part, Gilley is proposing the following disclaimer additions:

  • On the county’s public records request system — “To submit a public records request to better ensure anonymity, you will not be able to use the online service or email.”
  • On the county website — “If you do not want your email address or IP address released in response to a public records request, do not send your request electronically but make your request via phone.”
  • And on all county email taglines: “Under Florida law, both the content of emails, email addresses and IP addresses are public records. If you do not want the content of your email, your email address, or your IP address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity.”

The Escambia County Commission will consider Gilley’s disclaimer requests at their next meeting on Thursday.

In the case of the IP address of the anonymous email requester that was later requested by an anonymous county employee, NorthEscambia.com and an independent cybersecurity expert determined the IP address was not unique and did not disclose any identifying information about email sender. For more information, read “NorthEscambia.com Investigates: Escambia Employee Makes Anonymous Records Request To Identify Anonymous Citizen (And Why It Won’t Work)“.

NorthEscambia.com graphic.

Comments

13 Responses to “Gilley Proposes Warning To Anyone Contacting Escambia County By Email Or Online”

  1. Gin on June 17th, 2021 11:24 am

    Well well well. Lol Anyone can cut copy and paste another’s email address or someone they want to get in trouble. Say they did stuff . It’s been done to my son a couple times. Thank you for the warning. But we have Some wonderful Judges that don’t accept things. That catch and ask the people if they did that. And believe you me. The people responsible will be notified. Do don’t be afraid to use email to make comments. Or reques.t stuff. Unless your one who is trying to be underhanded. Have a wonderful day! To che. Thank you Judge Boles…MG

  2. judy on June 15th, 2021 8:24 am

    E-mails have been public record since around 2016. It is published on all county and state websites. Everybody should already know that if they have your e-mail, they also have access to your IP address. No mystery if you know much about computers…

  3. DerekW on June 15th, 2021 6:25 am

    This is so bogus! The intent of the statute is to make absolutely sure that public records request can be made anonymously. It this county paid attorney can not figure this one out, he/she should look for other employment. This is a total sham to discourage people from making anonymous public records request of the county. Most anonymous requests are made for fear of retribution….. the intent of the statute is to protect these people!

  4. mnon on June 15th, 2021 4:30 am

    Three letters … V P N… two words Shell Accounts

    I don’t use it for like making a FB post etc. but when I go to pay bills or check county sites etc I use a 256bit military grade double encryption on it every time. So yeah good luck to pull my IP on their sites, or intercept data. It’ll look like I’m in Thailand and if you figure that out it will led you to South Africa and so on.

    There are ways around everything to remain anonymous online. Most just don’t know how. Use a TOR browser and a proxy too… so many ways…

  5. MR REALITY on June 14th, 2021 9:20 pm

    Charlie, you are on to something…and they vote and collude with each other behind closed doors…

  6. Whisperjet on June 14th, 2021 2:46 pm

    …Thank the Lord we have a county administrator who is looking out for county employees as well as the tax payers who are footing the bill for all that keeps this county moving ahead
    .It seems there some folks who are only interested in their well being and future more than running this county in a progressive manner..

  7. Howie on June 14th, 2021 2:34 pm

    I have several items on my agenda to discuss with the County. I won’t be sending emails, but instead handwritten letters via the US Postal Service. Every Government office has a mailing address.

    To remain anonymous is everyone’s own business. It’s nosey employees trying to reveal the identity of private information requests. I hope they get fired for digging into business that don’t relate to them. This goes for all companies.

    Emails and phone calls will not protect you from anonymity. They should be kept secret, but you have tattletales in this world.

  8. eric on June 14th, 2021 11:44 am

    We are becoming a police state

  9. William Lingo on June 14th, 2021 11:20 am

    Of course the AG would say the IP address is public records, the government could care less about our right to anonymity!!! Thank you Janice Gilley for thinking about the citizens of this county. Perhaps the IP address of the county employee trying to expose the person that requested the retirement plan information should be exposed as well!!!!

  10. Melissa Pino on June 14th, 2021 10:53 am

    Thank you for running this, Mr. Reynolds. It’s so unfortunate that a County administrator would continue to disinform the public on an issue that is complicated enough, and also fraught with people’s justifiable fears over being tracked by their electronic data and meta-data.

    It’s not the County making these rules, but the County following the AG’s advice on the Sunshine laws. That couldn’t be any more clear.

    This is analogous to a time when a staff member at the County put a big public records request in for all of my communications with certain entities at the County, asked to remain anonymous in the note he wrote to request it, then signed his name to the request. If County staff doesn’t understand it, then it’s no wonder the public would be confused. They deserve clarity from the County Administration, not spin.

    It was in fact Ms. Gilley who ramped up the notion that requests could be made anonymously at the County while knowing that meta-data was public record. (Requests CAN be made anonymously, but a person has to be knowledgeable about how to do so.) She also instituted, early on in her tenure, an online employee hot-line to report things and claimed their anonymity would be secured. The ones who know how meta-data works were wise to steer clear of it, and warn fellow staff members not to use it.

    Hopefully this issue will be put to rest at the meeting on Thursday morning.

  11. William Reynolds on June 14th, 2021 10:16 am

    “Can someone explain the backstory to me?”

    Read the other story linked at the bottom.

  12. RJ on June 14th, 2021 9:26 am

    Can someone explain the backstory to me?

  13. Charlie Morton on June 14th, 2021 8:43 am

    Escambia County Government is a Circus run by a bunch of entitled clowns serving special interests.





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