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Inside TDV - The Data Vault Blog

The IRS Loses Emails Through Poor Records Management

As part of a recent Congressional investigation, the Internal Revenue Service has come under fire for a series of seemingly politically motivated tax investigations conducted back in 2011. During these hearings, questions have been asked regarding emails between the head of the department and the investigative unit; but revelations have been stalled by the IRS’s claim that a hard drive crash wiped out all records of electronic communications during the time period of interest.

Many elected officials are questioning the integrity of this explanation, as the IRS supposedly has a robust disaster recovery plan in place for records management purposes. In fact, according to their stated document handling procedures, prior to 2013 all emails were backed up and stored via magnetic tape on a daily basis. Whether the emails were lost in an actual hard drive crash or were deleted intentionally to protect personnel from scrutiny is irrelevant for our purposes, as that sort of excuse shouldn’t even be possible with modern data backup and recovery technologies. Even magnetic tape technologies have seen exponential growth in terms of capacity per slot, and cloud based storage solutions offer virtually limitless capabilities.

When dealing with some of the most sensitive information handled by the government (our tax and income documentation) there is literally no excuse to not be backing up information longer than 6 months as claimed. No matter how trivial it may seem, communications between staff members are considered mission critical if an issue does arise, and should be treated as such. If this current investigation turns up nothing else, hopefully it will encourage the various departments to review their information backup systems.

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