Earlier this year, Utah’s State Records Committee required state agencies to being keeping the email records of “executive decision makers” permanently, and the email records of rank and file state employees for at least seven years. Utah’s email retention policy is very similar to the “Capstone” program the federal government plans to adopt in 2015. Utah’s rules essentially requires that all emails by top managers be archived per:
Incoming and outgoing business-related correspondence, regardless of format or mode of transmission, that provides unique information relating to the functions, policies, procedures or programs of an agency. These records document executive decisions made regarding agency interests. Executive decision makers may include the Director, Chief Administrative Officer, Public Information Officer or other internal administrators as identified by the executive office.
Utah also requires agencies to keep almost all non-executive emails for seven years. Utah defines these emails as:
Incoming and outgoing business-related correspondence, regardless of format or mode of transmission, created in the course of administering agency functions and programs. Administrative correspondence documents work accomplished, transactions made, or actions taken.
According to Utah officials the state does not automatically delete any emails. In sharp contrast, New York State has a policy of automatically deleting emails left in in boxes longer than 90 days. Records “retention” and archiving policies are a hugely important complement to Freedom of Information (FOI) laws. FOI laws govern which records must be released to the public. Archiving laws govern which records (including emails) must be kept. Without strong archiving laws, FOI is next to useless, because government officials may choose to shred or delete records that they do not want released under FOI laws.
Utah is providing a great example for states and cities looking to move their email retention policies squarely into the 21st century.