A government’s way of staying transparent to their constituents is through archiving public records. Federal and state records management includes the creation, maintenance, and disposition of public documents, such as budgets, financial records, administrative policies and procedures, government contracts and leases, and even a public employee’s communication with colleagues and constituents. But the rise of new communication platforms has shone light to the vagueness of existing public records archiving laws.
The federal and state governments have addressed the issue by implementing their systems and policies to accommodate technological advancements on communication – to store electronic records properly. Accordingly, retention policies of the Freedom of Information Act and most State Open Record Laws allow the public to access federal and state records, including employee text messages, voice calls, and e-mails, typically within six months before the request.
Moreover, the Texas 944 text message law is an example of a law that complies with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) 2019 mandate. The mandate requires all state governments and public agencies to establish the guidelines that will allow them to capture electronic records and store them in an accessible electronic format. Consequently, the Texas 944 law regulates the use of personal devices of employees in their workplace to ensure proper public records request response.
Despite the creation and amendments of laws on recordkeeping, there are still misconceptions regarding public records archiving that give several public offices some difficulties. One of them is that there is a definite retention period for mobile messages. However, as mentioned, federal and state governments implement their own established policies; thus, the retention period for electronic records varies per state.
For a public office or agency to effectively comply with the public records archiving laws, it must expound its knowledge on the definition and requirements of the rules and avoid dwelling on the myths associated with storing public records. This infographic by Telemessage lists some of the common misconceptions about public records archiving.