If you have an interest in records keeping, you should be keeping track of the National Archives, where the Chief Architect, David Ferriero, has his own blog. The latest post concerns how government agencies should manage their email. When government email has been in the news in recent years, it’s often due to the use of non-governmental addresses to conduct official business. (I consider the practice to be anti-transparency and believe it should be barred.)
In his post, Ferriero highlights the challenge of determining what should be kept and what should not. With an estimate of 40 billion emails generated annually by the federal government, it’s an important and daunting challenge. Recognizing that sorting through these emails (in addition to their other regular duties) is perhaps too much to ask of federal employees, the Archives is looking to the software industry for help in developing automated tools to make this identification and sorting manageable.
In the meantime, the Archives is implementing a system called Capstone. Under Capstone, an agency’s designated federal employees would save all of their email as permanent records and non-designated employees would save their email for a designated period of time. (Presumably during this time the agency can determine whether or not certain emails should be designated as worth making permanent records.) The Archives is using the system presently, and all federal agencies are encouraged to use Capstone or some similar system by the end of 2016. By that time all e-mail records are expected to be available in an accessible electronic format. Yes, that’s right, some e-mail records are not presently stored in an electronic format (accessible or not).
All of this is a separate issue from what former Secretary of State Clinton did with her own government emails. Her actions certainly raise concerns over a possible conflict of interest concerning her actions in that office. To be fair, the same scrutiny is worth casting over other presidential candidates and how they have (or have not) managed their official email to conduct business. Why that hasn’t been the case is something worth considering.