Wednesday, May 3, 2017

City of San Jose Makes Crucial Mistake of Posting Link to Nextdoor's Log In Page

I noticed recently that the City of San Jose has a web page dedicated to the various social media links maintained by the City

Currently, when you visit the site this is what you see:

You'll notice at the top of the page that the City is "connecting with neighborhoods through the Nextdoor social network."  However, upon further investigation I noticed two glaring mistakes.  The first one is that the City provides a link to Nextdoor's sign in page and not directly to the City's Nextdoor account.  This would leave visitors to the City's web page into believing that they would need to create a Nextdoor account in order to view the City's posts.  This is absolutely misleading.  You do NOT need to create a Nextdoor account in order to access public records, nor should you ever have to (at least in the state of California).

The California Public Records Act (CPRA) has a section that governs intermediaries like Nextdoor, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Section 6253.3 of the CPRA states that "[a] state or local agency may not allow another party to control the disclosure of information that is otherwise subject to disclosure pursuant to this chapter." 

There is no doubt that the City's Nextdoor account is subject to the CPRA, as it is an account maintained by the City and is meant to communicate with the public about issues related to the City.  A social media platform like Nextdoor cannot make people who wish to view records subject to the CPRA hand over all sorts of personal information in order to create an account for that platform. (Nextdoor makes you verify your address by providing them with your personal information

For example, you do not need a Twitter account in order to read what your state representative Tweets.  You can read what they Tweet, but the draw back is that won't be able to further engage in comments with them on Twitter, nor will you be able to see who they Follow and who their Followers are if you are not an account holder.  Yet, when the City provides a link to only the sign in page of a social media platform then it can make it look like that platform is trying to control access to what is otherwise a public record.

It was only after I did further Google searching that I realized there was a second mistake with the City's Nextdoor link.  The City of San Jose actually has two different Nextdoor accounts, which is not obvious when viewing their Social Media Center web page.  You can visit these two accounts without having to create a Nextdoor account:
The City of San Jose Nextdoor Account
San Jose City Council Nextdoor Account

The important thing to remember is that if your public official or agency is going to share information on a social media platform then there should be very little in the way of your access to viewing it.

Sadly, the City of Mountain View makes the same mistake, too.  Visit their social media web page , click on the two Nextdoor links provided, and you'll notice this:

I'm sure if I cared to look further I'd discover other cities making the same misleading mistake.

If you care to see the City of Mountain View's Nextdoor accounts you can go here:
City of Mountain View Nextdoor Account
City of Mountain View Police Department's Nextdoor Account

As of May 5th I noticed that the City of Mountain View changed how they link to Nextdoor and the links will now take you directly to the account in question.  The City of San Jose's link still goes to Nextdoor's sign in page.

However, the City of Mountain View didn't make this change without a fight:

Yes, they really tweeted these asinine comments.