Today we look at mobile text archiving for government agencies and why it’s crucial for both federal and state agencies to preserve all business-related communication from mobile devices. We’ll look at the laws that regulate public sector archiving, as well as features you should look for in your archiving solution to ensure full compliance with relevant legislation.
Without a doubt, mobile has transformed the way we do business. It has become the preferred communication channel for a large number of organizations, including those in the public sector.
The benefits of mobile communication are obvious ‒ 90% of text messages are read within 3 minutes and 90% are answered within a minute. The immediacy and effortlessness of texting is unparalleled, especially when compared to email.
Public Sector Social Media Archiving
Following the rise of social media and mobile, legislation in various countries and industries has been changed to include the retention of business records from these alternative channels, mobile included.
This made the archiving of mobile content a new, yet essential business practice that is quickly becoming a standard, especially in highly regulated industries such as financial, government, healthcare and education.
In the government sector, where communication is often highly confidential, and where its integrity needs to be fully protected, secure archival and easy retrieval of electronic records is key.
Administrators need to ensure that government agencies comply with a range of local, state and federal legislation and are prepared and equipped for proper retention and future access requirements.
On the other hand, citizens and watchdog organisations also expect full transparency from local, state and federal governments. They want their requests answered on time, including retrieving and disclosing all information relevant to their request.
And while it’s often difficult for government agencies to be speedy, due to the size of organizations and scope of work, there are ever-increasing demands for government agencies to streamline their ways of work.
By relying on safe digital communication channels and capturing and archiving all employee communication, public agencies will be able to provide comprehensive public records to the public on time.
Text Message Archiving for Public Agencies: FOIA, Sunshine Laws and NARA
In order to ensure transparency and government disclosure in the US, several laws have been enacted that require that government records be open to public observation. Here are the key ones.
- Did you know that if an employee deletes an incriminating text message from their phone, the mobile carrier typically keeps it only for up to 5 days?
- What would happen if somebody made a FOIA or eDiscovery request and it turned out that your agency has no means of recovering it?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives the public the right to request access to federal records, which agencies then need to disclose, typically within 6 months (up to 8 weeks for simple requests). The emergence of FOIA came as a response to the public’s growing dissatisfaction with secrecy surrounding government decision-making and record management.
Today, business records also include paperless, digital correspondence ‒ email, content from social media platforms, text messages, chat apps, calls and voicemail.
Problems first appeared when, familiar with strict email retention laws, government agency representatives used mobile messaging to evade public records requests, which caused changes in legislation and inclusion of mobile content into the definition of what constitutes a business record.
The Freedom of Information Act clearly mandates that text messages are considered public records and obliges agencies to retain those records by archiving government work-related mobile device conversations and texts. We’ve covered FOIA requirements for public agencies in our Government Compliance Checklist.
While FOIA applies only to federal agencies, individual US states have enacted similar legislation called Sunshine Laws to ensure transparency on a local and state level.
Public state agencies and officials that use mobile devices for official/business purposes should have the ability to comply with archiving requirements mandated by both FOIA and state public records laws.
A year ago, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released a directive which deals with how government agencies should manage electronic records, including mobile communication.
Some of the crucial points in the directive highlight the need to store and retain records in a trustworthy and tamper-proof manner, as well as the ability to locate, retrieve and deliver them in a timely manner.
To stay compliant with NARA, agencies need to be able to:
- define, monitor, review and update access to electronic records,
- prevent unauthorized access, tampering, deletion or destruction of archived records and
- have audit trail and legal hold capabilities.
Mobile Archiving for Governments
To ensure compliance with federal and state regulations and a smooth and timely eDiscovery response, government agencies increasingly opt for dedicated, third-party archiving solutions to retain their email, social media and mobile.
There are various archiving methods, options and providers, but here are some capabilities you should keep in mind:
1. Indexing and Metadata
Make sure your archiver has powerful indexing functionalities which also index metadata (the identifiers that describe the archived items; things such as time, date, author, record category, file size etc.)
2. Disposal Options
Your archiver should be able to automatically expunge messages in bulk once the retention period expires and such records no longer have any business and compliance value to the organization.
3. Reporting and Audit Trail
It would be a big plus if your mobile archiver can generate reports and offer data analytics. This would give you a more effective control over data and facilitate compliance. Reports may include audit logs or various stats.
If your agency’s already archiving email and social media, it would be both cost-effective and practical to integrate the mobile archiving capabilities into an existing solution.
Jatheon CTRL is a SaaS-based social media, mobile and video archiving module integrated into our email archiving software. This modular approach allows users and compliance officers to search the various types of archived electronic records from a single interface. Jatheon CTRL supports the archival of phone calls from most mobile carriers around the globe, and offers support for SMS, MMS and voicemail archiving using both carrier deployment and Android and iOS apps.
If you’re looking for more information on mobile archiving imperatives beyond compliance, here are some more resources to help you get started: