Government organizations implement the Federal Records Act of 1950, which provides the legal framework for federal records management, including record creation, maintenance, and disposition, to offer their constituents transparency in conducting their business. It includes how they formulate their budgets, plans, and how they communicate through different communication channels such as text messages and voice calls.
However, as technological advancements introduced new communication platforms, the scope of the existing public records archiving laws have become vague. The ambiguity of the policies has brought difficulties to various public agencies, creating confusion and misconceptions about specific rules.
Accordingly, federal and state governments have established different regulations to store electronic records. For example, the retention policies under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and most State Open Record Laws allow the public to access federal and state records, including employee text messages, typically six months from the date of request.
Additionally, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) 2019 mandate puts a directive to all state governments and public agencies to create their public records storing systems. It will allow them to capture electronic documents, such as mobile SMS, voice calls, and Whatsapp chats, and keep them in an accessible electronic format. It would also help them ensure efficient and structured public records request responses.
Several public agencies have already implemented their records archiving laws; however, a few still face difficulties associated with some myths about storing public records. An example of a misconception on archiving public records is that banning text messaging at work can exempt them from the requirement to capture and record text messages on both government-issued and personal devices of their employees. However, this is not the case, as regulators and oversight committees will still conduct audits to government agencies despite having a no-texting policy in the workplace.
Effectively complying with the implementation of created or amended public records archiving laws means fully understanding the rules’ definition and requirements. It helps public officials to avoid dwelling on misconceptions associated with storing public records. This infographic by Telemessage details some of the myths on public records archiving.