Or in the air may be a better term.
With Apple products comes iMessage, an internal messaging system where one person with an Apple product can message, or text, another person with an Apple product via the Internet.
In other words, if you have your smartphone contract with Verizon – as the Legislature does now – and you are using an iPhone and sending to another legislator who has an iPhone, iPad or iBook Air -- as the Legislature does now, the text does not go over Verizon networks.
Instead it goes internally through the Internet via the Apple iMessage system.
There is nothing sinister here.
The legislative staff didn’t recommend the use of Apple products because of iMessage, sources tell UtahPolicy.
And lawmakers didn’t accept a multi-million dollar Apple and Verizon contract because of iMessage, they also said.
Just as so many other computer/smartphone users are going to Apple products for their high quality and versatility, so did the Legislature.
And not all of the 104 part-time lawmakers are going with Apple products.
Legislators can chose any smartphone that Verizon carries, including a number of android-based products.
And a few lawmakers are using their old phones, tablets and/or laptops, as well.
Still, with legislators getting new Apple products at the start of 2013 and the upcoming 45-day general session, UtahPolicy has heard that iMessage uses an internal texting format that could mean it would be harder to get GRAMAed text messages.
It’s unclear if that is true, however.
Sources say that lawmakers and legislative staffers who first got the iPhones late last year as kind of test products still have any iMessages they sent and received on their devices.
And from those devices they could be reproduced iMessages onto paper or emails – and thus likely be proper “records” under GRAMA.
But the changing nature of electronic communications is a challenge for GRAMA and will remain so for some time.
After the political disaster of HB477 of several years ago – an attempt to rewrite GRAMA law at the end of the 2010 legislative session – lawmakers put together a special citizen/official commission to study GRAMA issues.
Part of the time was taken up over the controversial question as to what is an official record – especially whether a text message was such a record, or was a text message more like a telephone call – here one minute, gone with the dial tone.
No definitive answer was taken on whether a text message was a record or not, with the group deciding to just wait and see how electronic messaging evolved over the next several years.
Well, it has evolved into iMessages – at least as Apple produces are concerned.
But the answer whether an iMessage is a record is still in limbo.
It appears, since an iMessage goes through the web in the Apple internal system, that there is no third party place where such text messages are kept.
But, sources point out, even if you texted through, say, your Verizon telephone network, if those messages were saved by Verizon, it would take a court order to get at them.
A GRAMA request wouldn’t do that.
In addition, when a GRAMA request does come in, legislative staffers ask legislators to “scrub” their emails, paper files and text messages for any item that could pertain to the request.
Yes, a legislator could delete his iMessages from his device, either immediately or at regular intervals.
But he can delete his emails from his devices, as well.
And, in fact, the official advice of legislative lawyers is to delete emails that don’t deal with public issues – like, say, an email from a church member on church business.
iMessage is doing one thing, sources told UtahPolicy. Since they are outside of a caller’s smartphone data plan, they are costing cell phone companies revenue.
But that isn’t a problem for the Utah Legislature.
The old adage (or is it a rather new adage?) still applies: If you don’t want what you text message to ever come back to bite you, say only in such messages what you would say in a public place or in a paper letter.
Often some information is just too much or poorly expressed in text messages or in emails. So beware.