3 thoughts on “Why does NARA ask for additional metadata for email records?

  1. Please explain the utility and timing of asking agencies to adhere to the following:
    “1) Email messages should comply with the specifications outlined in Request for Comments (RFC) 5322, Internet Message Format.”

    “RFC 5322, Internet Message Format” appears to be a draft protocol from 2008 and NARAs only other mention of this document appears in a proposed rule change in the Federal Register from 7/13/2016 that did not result in the promulgation of CFR changes.

    It seems that referencing RFC 5322 is premature and possibly unnecessary in this otherwise informative blog post. At a minimum, please provide contextual information about the draft protocol and summarize the 57 page document to highlight how it can be used.

  2. I am concerned about the utility and timing of including the following reference: “1. Email messages should comply with the specifications outlined in Request for Comments (RFC) 5322, Internet Message Format.”

    “Request for Comments (RFC) 5322, Internet Message Format.” is a draft protocol from 2008 that was mentioned in a proposed NARA rule change in the Federal Register from 7/13/2016. To date, the proposed CFR changes have not been promulgated and RFC 5322 remains a draft.

    At a minimum, I recommend that NARA provide context for including the draft protocol in this blog post and include a summary of the 57 page document to the federal records management community to help us utilize it.

    1. Apologies for any confusion!

      In our blog post describing metadata requirements for email we referenced RFC 5322. We included it because it is the definitive authority when it comes to the construction of email messages and the terminology associated with them. RFC 5322 is referenced in NARA’s Criteria for Managing Email Records in Compliance with the Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18). Its predecessor, RFC 2822, is referenced in NARA’s transfer guidance. We have updated the post to clarify that 5322 is the successor and not currently referenced in the transfer guidance and we recommend that agencies consider referring to that version of the standard.

      Email is made possible through a complex set of protocols (there are approximately 12 core standards) that govern different aspects including networking, addressing, internationalization, and attachments. For the most part this complexity is hidden from end users by the maturity of the standards that govern how each piece works and the applications that implement them.

      If email messages are migrated out of the original system into a record keeping or archiving system prior to execution of the disposition, it is important for agencies to insure that they retain their significant characteristics as defined in RFC 5322. For example, the field labels To, From, Subject, and Date are located in all message’s header fields and are important for e-discovery but are not always retained when messages are moved between systems.

      RFC 5322, is the de facto standard that defines the Internet Message Format (IMF) which describes how messages must be constructed in order for them to be successfully transmitted between systems. While labeled as a Request For Comments (RFC) document, this title does not adequately reflect the authority of the document. As explained on the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETC) site (https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1796): “The “Request for Comments” (RFC) document series is the official publication channel for Internet standards documents and other publications of the IESG, IAB, and Internet community.”

      RFCs can be published in different categories, Informational, Experimental, or Standards Track (Proposed Standard, Draft Standard, Internet Standard), or Historic. RFC 5322 is published in the standards track.

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