2 Investigates

IT expert questions use of app by state officials

A specialist in IT security tells Channel 2 Action News the app at the center of a whistleblower suit against a state agency makes it impossible to recover information sent through the app.

“They call them disappearing messages,” Dr. Andy Green told Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher.

The suit was filed by Stephanie Ramage, who was fired as the communications director at the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) in August.

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In the complaint, she argues that an electronic record of a text or a call made from a government phone should be treated like an official document produced by a government agency and must be maintained.

But the app in question, Signal, does just the opposite.

“Those are public records, and we know that the Signal app doesn’t preserve them,” Ramage said. “You can hide your tracks, and that is certainly not in the spirit of the Georgia Open Records Act.”

Green, who has appraised IT security for Channel 2 Action News investigations for a decade, agrees.

“When they use apps like Signal and others like it to engage in communication, those records cannot be trapped, cannot be kept and cannot be logged anywhere,” he said. “There’s no way for the state to be able to retrieve those messages, especially if the sender has put a time limit on the message and it’s destroyed at the recipient’s end.”

We asked Green if a state agency could legitimately say that those records deleted by Signal don’t exist.

“That is correct,” he said.


In her suit, Ramage said she complained to Georgia Inspector General Scott McAfee right before she was fired.

McAfee texted Channel 2 Action News: “OIG (Office of Inspector General) can confirm it received Ms. Ramage’s complaint but is unable to comment at this time as the matter remains open and ongoing.”

Green noted that he is familiar with the state’s open records law because he too is a state employee.

“Georgia state employees are using this app to evade oversight and... to evade the Open Records Act, and the Open Records Act does apply to the vast majority of state employees,” he told Belcher.

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In response to our first story about the lawsuit, GVRA responded that Ramage was fired for “poor performance.”

In a statement Wednesday, GVRA said: “Because this is related to an ongoing lawsuit, we are unable to comment at this time.”

The agency did not answer Channel 2 Action News′ question about whether GVRA officials use the Signal app on government cell phones.