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The US Government National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), is expanding upon a 2013 Guidance on a New Approach to Managing Email Records to now include text, chats, and instant messages. In recognition of the increased role of electronic messages in servicing communication both within bureaucracies and in contacts with the public, the use of a Role-Based Approach (Capstone) has been extended to them. This recognition results from government agencies at all levels opening up communication channels to contemporary IM and social network platforms and internalizing the archiving requirements associated with them.
The 2013 Guidance introduced the concept of role-based scheduling for the management of email and offered agencies an alternative method of managing their email records. Under a role-based approach, final disposition is determined by the role or position of the record creator or receiver. Specifically, records of certain roles or positions may be scheduled as permanent for transfer to the National Archives. These are usually at the top of an organization. The records of all other roles and positions may be scheduled for disposal as temporary records. Thus in the current context expansion, electronic messages of high-level roles and positions could be scheduled as permanent and electronic messages of all others could be scheduled as temporary.
In recognizing that electronic messages—including texts, chats, and instant messages—created or received in the course of agency business are likely federal records, they must have a NARA-approved largely role-based disposition authority. In this manner, existing treatment of email correspondence can be extended to WhatsApp and other IMs popular with federal agencies. The advantages of this role-based approach for electronic messages include:
While this approach has significant benefits, there are also risks that the agency must consider, including choosing the appropriate permanent positions, the possible need to meet other records management responsibilities, and the likelihood of incidentally collecting personal and other non-record messages as permanent.
Although a role-based approach can reduce the burden on individuals by facilitating a greater use of automated methods for managing electronic messages, agencies still remain responsible for managing all records in accordance with NARA regulations and requirements. When implementing a role-based approach for capturing and managing electronic messages, agencies must continue to:
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