Monday, December 20, 2004

Cabinet Office email destruction story

'Whitehall Undermining Spirit of Freedom of Information Act'
-Scotland on Sunday
Beith condemns Whitehall email destruction plan -Guardian
Whitehall Emails Must Be Kept, Says MP -The Scotsman
E-mail deletion attacked by Beith - BBC


Anonymous said...

The Cab Office chose the wrong angle for their defence. It is of course ludicrous to pretend that the introduction of an email deletion policy a month ahead of FOIA intro date is completely unconnected.

They should have focused on (s45 of?) The Act requiring public bodies to introduce robust records management policies. The timed deletion of emails that have not been added to official files is perfectly in keeping with good records management practice - providing that staff capture the more important emails and these are kept as long as is deemed necessary. Of course, the harsh truth is that email inboxes have become the default file stores for many civil servants (particularly senior management).

Unfortunately, the records management text within the FOI Act perpetuates the "records and documents" farce where a piece of information has to fall into two clumsy groupings (a "document" is transient and is subject to change, a "record" is critically important and is supposedly frozen). Ironically the provisions of the Act do not really differentiate between documents and records - both are potentially up for grabs; hence, what needs to happen is for Govt records managers to drop the records / documents distinction and start to actively manage all information. Hence, some information will undergo scheduled deletion (like emails after 3 months), whilst some will be kept much longer.

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