Request for email metadata (Office of the Governor)

Matt Chapman filed this request with the Office of the Governor of Texas.
Due April 20, 2018
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response

Communications

From: Matt Chapman

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

For all non-personal emails accounts in use by the governor and its staff, please provide me the following information for all emails sent and received between March 5 2018 and March 9, 2018.

1. From address
2. To address
3. bcc addresses
4. cc addresses
5. Time
6. Date

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 10 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Matt Chapman

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

This email seeks to clarify or narrow the scope of your request to avoid the production of and potential charges for responsive information that you are not interested in receiving. Additionally, clarifying or narrowing the scope of your public information request can assist the Office of the Governor in providing responsive information to you quicker and potentially avoid a request for decision from the Office of the Attorney General.

I have reached some conservative estimates related to the data you requested and the time necessary to generate it. There are likely over 50,000 messages total. The program that generates these reports is very slow. Generation of a report with the requested data for one hour's worth of sent messages only took approximately 5 hours. For all sent and received messages during the 120 hour period of time you specified, it could take anywhere from 400-1200 hours to generate reports with the data you requested. As you can see, this is a very time consuming request that comprises a large amount of data.

Accordingly, can you clarify or narrow your request in any way?

Ways your request could be narrowed or clarified include but are not limited to: limiting the time period; specifying certain subject matter; identifying specific senders and/or recipients; or restricting your request to a specific division(s) (listed here<https://gov.texas.gov/organization>).

Your narrowing or clarification of this request does not preclude you from making future requests for additional information. After we receive your response, we can begin a search of our records for the information you are seeking. If the OOG does not receive a response from you by the 61st day after the date this email is sent, your request will be considered withdrawn. See Gov't Code § 552.222(d), (g). The withdrawal of your request does not preclude you from requesting the same or other information in the future. You can reach us at publicrecords@gov.texas.gov<mailto:publicrecords@gov.texas.gov> with any questions.

Thank you,

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott
(512) 463-8470

From: Matt Chapman

Hi -

The information that i am requesting is not for the contents of the emails themselves - only their metadata. The cost estimate should take this into consideration, as the review for metadata surrounding each email is drastically different in comparison to review for the email contents.

A similar request was done for the city of Houston for all of January 2017, and the responsive records resulted in 6 million emails - 120x fewer emails. For that request, the fees ended up being a little over $300. Following a similar pricing model - for review - this request should cost less than $5.

If you would like to see the results of that request, please review:
https://data.world/sketchcity/city-of-houston-email-metadata-january-march-2017

Thank you for your understanding -
Matt Chapman

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

The figures I previously provided were for the generation of a report containing metadata only, not for the review of any email contents. I cannot speak to our technological capabilities as compared to those of the City of Houston. It may be that the City of Houston has a program that can retrieve this data quicker. As I stated, our program is very slow.

You referenced a cost estimate in your email, and I believe I should clarify part of my original message. When I stated that “[g]eneration of a report with the requested data for one hour's worth of sent messages only took approximately 5 hours,” this was the time the program took to return this data. The employee who entered in the necessary parameters for the program to produce this data spent less time. The 400-1200 hours I estimated was not the time that would be factored into a cost estimate. This information was simply provided to explain how long it could take our program to generate this data, as I extrapolated the 1 hour out to 120 hours and doubled it to account for received messages as well. It is possible that the report will generate much faster for non-business hours, which is why I included a low range of 400 hours (5 hours of report generation for every 1 hour of 40 business hours in a work week, doubled to account for received messages). Again, these are not the hours factored into a cost estimate. I included that information to explain how this could be a slow process, which is why clarification or narrowing could be helpful. A cost estimate will be based on the actual time spent by our employees to locate, compile, manipulate, and reproduce information.

To that end, before your request can be considered received and a cost estimate generated, I need a response as to whether you can clarify or narrow your request in any of the ways I suggested or otherwise?

If you have any questions, please contact me at publicrecords@gov.texas.gov or 512-463-8470.

Sincerely,

Kenny Moreland

Assistant General Counsel

Office of Governor Greg Abbott

From: Matt Chapman

I would like to ask that this request remain as-is without any narrowing beyond the scope of the original request. Upon reading your response, it seems that the request for clarification and narrowing is with your understanding that this request is for email contents - which it is not. The information that I am requesting is still not for the emails, but for the metadata that surrounds the emails themselves, which for all intents and purposes are separate documents. Should the process for review include the scanning of individual emails, then I would like to humbly ask for reconsideration in the required steps for review in order to fulfill this request.

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

Please find the attached cost estimate for your public information request below. If you have any questions, please contact me at publicrecords@gov.texas.gov<mailto:publicrecords@gov.texas.gov> or 512-463-8470.

Sincerely,
Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott

From: Matt Chapman

Could you explain the costs in further detail? The costs do not remotely match up with the city of Houston despite the high likelihood that the records responsive to this request are orders of magnitude fewer than Houston's.

You mentioned over a call that the computer systems involved are slower, and so the costs are much higher. Could you explain that further? If there is anything that I can do to help at a technical level, please let me know - I have over ten years of systems administration experience in large distributed financial environments and can offer many suggestions to reduce the computing costs.

As-is, I do not accept the costs, but would like to again humbly ask that you reconsider the costs in the extent that you have provided.

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

As you noted, my initial fear was that the generation of the reports themselves would be time-consuming for our computer program. This was because the first test report our IT department pulled took 5 hours to return the metadata for sent messages only over a one hour time period. As I explained in my second email dated March 16, 2018, this estimated time to generate the reports “was not the time that would be factored into a cost estimate.” (Emphasis added.) Happily, our IT department figured out how to pull the reports containing the requested metadata in much less time than they initially estimated. All of the reports have been pulled, and there are 71,445 total lines to review.

I noted in the cost estimate letter that you were sent today that certain “labor” is required to produce the requested information to you. This labor is not the time needed to generate the report; rather, the labor is the necessary time for an individual in our office to review each line of the responsive reports and manually redact confidential personal email addresses. Section 552.137 of the Government Code makes certain email addresses confidential by law. The OOG is prohibited from releasing such confidential information to you. Unfortunately, this process cannot be automated and requires each line of the reports to be individually reviewed by a member of our team. A representative sample of the report was reviewed for this confidential information and redacted to reach the figure in our estimate: 6,708 minutes.

You mentioned that our cost estimate does not match up with what you were provided by the City of Houston. I cannot speak to the practices of other governmental bodies. I did review the spreadsheet you linked containing information obtained from the City of Houston, and it contains multiple instances of email addresses that may actually be confidential under section 552.137 of the Government Code. It is possible that they failed do review the information for such personal email addresses.

I hope this provides a better understanding of our cost estimate letter.

Sincerely,

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott

From: Matt Chapman

Thank you for your thorough response. This makes much more sense now. Could the scope of the request be limited to just March 5th?

Also, please bear in mind that excel can be used to filter unique rows: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/filter-for-unique-values-or-remove-duplicate-values-ccf664b0-81d6-449b-bbe1-8daaec1e83c2

Additionally, I can provide an excel spreadsheet that can be used to redact information and identify unique email addresses based on a small set of criteria. Let me know if you would like to discuss it, as it has been helpful in other jurisdictions.

Thanks and regards,
Matt Chapman

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

I would be happy to limit the scope of your request to any time range you would prefer. The reports for March 5th contain 14,223 lines of data, which I estimate would require 1,335 minutes of “labor” to manipulate the data by redacting the aforementioned confidential information. Using the same rates for labor and overhead as the previous cost estimate, this would come out to a total estimated cost of $400.50. If you do wish to limit your request to this scope, please let me know so that I can prepare and send an official cost estimate for you.

I appreciate your suggestions regarding Excel filters or spreadsheets that be used to redact information. Unfortunately, I do not believe either would change the situation in this instance. As I mentioned before, there is no way to automate this process. The issue is not the identification or location of unique e-mail addresses – we are able to use Excel’s search functions to easily identify non-governmental e-mail addresses. However, not all non-governmental e-mail addresses are confidential. To understand this further, you may review section 552.137 of the Government Code<http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm#552.137>. Section 552.137 generally makes personal e-mail addresses confidential, but it also lists 5 exceptions to this confidentiality. Accordingly, a member of our team has to review the context of each line containing a non-governmental e-mail address to determine if it is confidential or if one of these 5 exceptions apply. Section 552.137’s confidentiality also does not apply to the private e-mail addresses of government officials or employees who use their private e-mail addresses to conduct official government business. See Austin Bulldog v. Leffingwell, 490 S.W.3d 240 (Tex. App.—Austin 2016, no pet.). This is why each line of the report containing a potentially confidential e-mail address must be reviewed manually.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott
(512) 463-8470

From: Matt Chapman

Thank you for the detailed information! I would like to continue forward in the request for just March 5th for the mentioned 14,223 lines of data.

Looking forward to seeing the final cost estimate.

Thanks and regards,
Matt Chapman

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

Thank you for the below reply. I am preparing the official cost estimate letter for your most recently narrowed request: sent and received emails dated March 5th, comprising 14,223 lines of data. However, before doing so I have one last request for narrowing. Are you willing to narrow your request to exclude information the OOG believes is subject to sections 552.107 and 552.139 of the Government Code?

In addition to personal e-mail addresses made confidential by section 552.137 of the Government Code, the report contains information the OOG believes is protected and may be withheld under section 552.107 of the Government Code<http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm#552.107> (attorney-client communications). The OOG also believes there is information that is confidential and must be withheld under section 552.139 of the Government Code<http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm#552.139> (information that relates to computer network security). Section 552.107 would be applied to the entire line for entries documenting attorney-client communications. Section 552.139 would be applied to individual email addresses related to the OOG’s network security systems. Unlike section 552.137, which specifically permits the redaction of certain e-mail addresses, sections 552.107 and 552.139 will require the OOG to request a ruling from the OAG for permission to withhold this information. This ruling process for the OAG can take up to 45 business days<http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm#552.306>.

Your narrowing or clarification of this request will not impact the cost estimate in this instance. Additionally, your narrowing or clarification of this request does not preclude you from making future requests for additional information. Your request will be considered officially received after we receive your response to this email. If the OOG does not receive a response from you by the 61st day after the date this email is sent, your request will be considered withdrawn. See Gov’t Code § 552.222(d), (g). The withdrawal of your request does not preclude you from requesting the same or other information in the future. You can reach us at publicrecords@gov.texas.gov<mailto:publicrecords@gov.texas.gov> with any questions.

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott
(512) 463-8470

From: Matt Chapman

Hi - I would prefer to keep the request as-is and I'm fine waiting up to 45 extra days.

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

Please find the attached cost estimate for your public information request. This cost estimate is in response to your narrowed request, as originally set out on April 6, 2018. If you have any questions, please contact me at publicrecords@gov.texas.gov<mailto:publicrecords@gov.texas.gov> or 512-463-8470.

Sincerely,

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott

From: Matt Chapman


To Whom It May Concern:

Please find enclosed a check for $400.05 to satisfy the fee associated with the attached public records request.

Thank you.

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