Inside TDV - The Data Vault Blog

Do Text Messages Count As Records?


When it comes to incorporating new media into an existing information management plan, there can be significant growing pains associated with the change. Convincing your staff members to not instantly delete text messages can be hard, as many people tend to think of them as trivial and unimportant. But as the Environmental Protection Agency recently found out, nothing could be further from the truth.

During an investigation spurred by lawsuits, it was discovered that the EPA’s current records policy does not cover text messages; with thousands of communications containing official policy discussions unintentionally destroyed. This comes as no small concern to governmental transparency advocates, as this could leave taxpayers in the dark on discussions concerning controversial proposed regulations. The upcoming audit of their practices will include examining the extent to which text messages were used for official business, whether the policy followed all applicable laws when it came to their handling, and will look into why adequate backups were not in place to preserve them on the record. In addition to these efforts, technology experts are working to determine whether any of the removed messages can be restored.

Whether or not the agency is found to have attempted to evade federal record keeping laws by using text messages, this story serves as a cautionary tale for anyone working with sensitive and legally binding information. If you haven’t discussed electronic communications (including emails, text messages, or otherwise) and their status as significant documentation with members of your organization, then time is of the essence before something similar occurs within your industry. As the information management field grapples with the ever changing world of technology, situations like these will only become more prevalent and having a comprehensive plan can help handle their implications. If you have questions about your policies and are interested in reforming them to meet the demands of a changing world, The Data Vault can help through our consulting services. One of our experts would be more than happy to sit down and help your review your practices, while giving you pointers on what you could improve to prepare for the future! Reach out to us today and someone will be in touch as soon as possible.


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