Fact or Fiction – Common Misconceptions About Public Records Archiving

Governmentorganizations fulfill the public’s demand for transparency by complying with the public records archiving laws – storing business documents and employees’ communication records. However, storing messages that are deemed government records can be a substantial challenge to all state governments and public agencies. As governments and agencies try to take more advantage of mobile archiving technology, the scope of existing public records archiving laws becomes vague. 

As a result, an increasing number of state governments are implementing new guidelines to manage how to store electronic records following the rise of new communication platforms. Under the retention requirements of Freedom of Information Act and most State Open Record Laws, the public can access federal and state records, including employees’ communication records, typically within six months from the request’s date. Consequently, under the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) 2019 mandate, government agencies and offices can establish new systems and policies that will capture electronic records, including text messages, voice calls, and Whatsapp chats and store them in an accessible format. 

However, despite the implementation of new recordkeeping guidelines or an entirely new data retention process, a few public offices can still stumble through hurdles as misconceptions still loom the records archiving laws. Much of the issues stem from myths associated with public records archiving, concerning the effective retention of electronic records of mobile communications. An example is the retention period for mobile messages is definite. However, this misconception can be clarified through the NARA 2019 mandate, as it states that government agencies can set their policies on storing records – this includes the retention period. Most states require mobile communication records to be stored for three to seven years, while other demand electronic records to be stored for an indefinite time. 

To fully understand a law, especially ones that are within the public’s concerns, it is a must to read facts from policies, regulations, bills, and even mandates; and, avoid dwelling on myths that create confusion and misunderstandings. This infographic by Telemessage details the common misconceptions on public records archiving.