Opportunity for Comment: Managing Electronic Messages

We are requesting comments on a draft NARA Bulletin entitled “Guidance on Managing Electronic Messages.

This draft Bulletin applies to text messaging, chat/instant messaging, messaging functionality in social media tools or apps, voice messaging, and similar forms of electronic messaging systems. The Bulletin addresses the new definition for electronic messages and other issues covered in the recent amendments to the Federal Records Act. Overall, it provides basic records management guidance for electronic messages.

NARA Bulletins are designed to provide fundamental guidance to Federal agencies who must then determine the most appropriate ways to incorporate the guidance into their work.

Please make your comments about the draft Bulletin by June 5, 2015. We will review all the comments we receive. Thank you.

6 thoughts on “Opportunity for Comment: Managing Electronic Messages

  1. Beth,

    Under best practices for the management of these new systems will NARA provide a list of items that they think are essential in having a good policy for these record types? Currently what is listed in the bulletin is pretty generic. It would be nice if there was a way to have agencies post their policies or templates online for other to review and adopt/use as needed. I don’t know if this can be done on a separate web-page or presented at the Federal Records Council or Federal CIO meeting. I think we need a government wide solution to issues of this nature. Thank you.

  2. 1. Move para 4, section 4 (p2) “Personal accounts should only be used…” to para 1 so as to strengthen the caveat about using personal accounts/devices. Otherwise, tacit approval of such use occurs.

    2. Is ‘communication tools’ common parlance for hardware or devices? Outside gov’t, ‘tools’ usually refers to software, or hardware and/or software. The context of the paragraph seems to imply hardware or devices, but the use of tools makes this unclear.

    3. The text in para 3, section 8 (p4) about the GRS and records schedules should be moved up to section 6 – separate policies should not really be needed beyond records schedules and the note about the varying values is important.

  3. Thank you both for your comments. I’ll see that they get passed along.

  4. Section 3: “Electronic messages created or received in the course of agency business are Federal records.” Does this mean messages that are work-related OR all messages transmitted during work time? Sometimes an instant message may be used to quickly ask a co-worker to change a meeting time or go to lunch. Would those be considered tracked records, as well?

    Section 4: Can an example be provided of creating and sending from a personal electronic messaging account? The section is worded well; however, an example would help with understanding an actual occurrence type.

    Section 5: Spell out Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) before using the acronym. The acronym is used in a bullet but then spelled out in the paragraph beneath the bullet.

    Section 8: The last sentence informs agencies to “transfer permanent electronic messages to NARA in accordance with guidance in place at the time of the transfer.” This is vague and doesn’t give the source of the guidance, e.g., Law, Regulation, Agency Policy etc. We recommend that NARA include, after said statement, where to find this information. If the source is in Section 10 of the bulletin (which it appears to be), we suggest providing this reference in Section 8.

    Section 11: Whom do I contact for more information, states “Agency staff should contact their agency records officers and office of general counsel to discuss records management issue for electronic messages.” It might be more suitable to inform agency staff to contact their agency records officers to discuss records management issues for electronic messages. When appropriate, agency records officers should consult with their Office of General Counsel (OGC). This business process allows agency records officers to make the determination to seek guidance from OGC.

    Suggest the following statements be written as follows:

    Section 4(a)(2) – “forwards a complete copy of the record to an official electronic messaging account of the officer or employee no later than 20 days after the original creation or transmission of the record.”

    Section 5 – Production of electronic messages when required for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), discovery, or any other type of investigation, including on personal devices; and

    FOIA and e-discovery obligations apply to electronic messages and have implications for their management.
    In addition to records management statutes and regulations, other information management statutes and obligations, such as the FOIA and e-discovery obligations apply to electronic messages and have implications for their management.

    Section 6 – Train employees on the identification and capture of records created when using electronic messaging accounts, including when employees use their personal or non-official electronic messaging accounts to perform work-related tasks.

    Please explain what training is needed for personal usage unless it is directly related to work usage.

  5. This is timely and informative. With the increase in electronic media and devices I answers a lot of questions posed as to how the information is to be labeled thus dispositioned. Yet it provides limitations upon which Federal information may be exchanged amongst employees. Although e-messaging is fluid, there should still be SOPs that are written which when new devices or medias are introduced employees have regulations that can be applied.

  6. • In response to question 3 , consider clarifying language below to demonstrate that Federal records via electronic messaging is limited to messages related to agency business (see response to question 4). This current language assumes that not only non-record material may qualify as Federal records, but also personal messages by employees during the course of business (e.g., texting a spouse about arranging daycare pickup).

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