Sponsored by the Council of State Archivists, Electronic Records Day is intended to raise awareness among government agencies, the general public, and other stakeholders about the importance of electronic records.
This year’s Electronic Records Day highlights the particular significance of managing electronic communications—whether email, text, or even social media—in government, and we in the Government Records Branch would like to take a moment to remind you of some important principles:
Content, not format is important. Whether a message is sent by email or text, posted to social media, or sent by any other means, the content of the message is what determines its retention. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t keep a letter on yellow paper longer than one on white paper just because of its color; similarly, you wouldn’t keep or destroy communications based solely on format.
If public business is being conducted, it is a public record. If you’re conducting official government business any related communication is a public record according to G.S. § 132.
Public business on a private accounts is still a public record. As recent news stories and court cases have shown, private accounts and personal devices are subject to public records laws if they are used to conduct public business. This helps ensure transparency in government and the accountability of public employees and officeholders.
Avoid combining public and private communications. In the event of a public records request, someone may search through your correspondence. Keep personal and business communications separate if you wish to protect your privacy.
Understand third-party tools. Using social media or text messages for public business complicates the process of capturing and preserving records since these platforms are typically operated by parties outside of government. Agencies must clearly understand the limits and user agreements of the technologies being used and plan for how to manage these records and provide access for public inspection.
Have policies in place. Agencies should have policies in place that clearly establish how each communication technology should be used, what content may be transmitted by such technologies, and outline procedures for the retention, retrieval, preservation, and disposition of content.
Interested in learning more about electronic records? Contact a Records Analyst for upcoming training opportunities in your area.