Electronic Records Day – Text Messages as Public Records

This entry is cross-posted from the G.S. 132 Files, the official Records Management blog of the State Archives of North Carolina.

In recognition of Electronic Records Day 2017, sponsored by the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), the State Archives of North Carolina presents the short film “The Texting Club.” This video was created for educational purposes only.

In North Carolina, public records are format neutral, so a record can be anything as long as it is “made or received…in connection with the transaction of public business” (G.S. 132), regardless of the form it takes. That means that even text messages, if they are sent or received in the course of public business, are considered public records. Unfortunately, unlike emails (which are generally sent and saved in a central email client) text messages are more of a challenge to manage and to provide access to for public records requests.

There are several ways that text messaging can be misused in conducting public business, such as texting personal business on a government phone or accidentally texting information to the wrong person. To help users better understand how they can best communicate electronically in NC, DNCR, in collaboration with DIT, has created the Best Practices for Electronic Communications in NC document. The document outlines considerations for the use of texting, appropriate use of the technology, records management, and security. In addition to the best practices outlined by DNCR, we also suggest that each agency have their own internal policies regarding the use of text messaging. We have developed guidelines for implementing strategies for text and instant messaging.

As texting and instant messaging becomes a more common way for people to quickly communicate, managing text messages is as integral a part of managing electronic records as any other records created by your agency. We encourage agencies to have internal discussions about how to best manage text messaging as part of their records management strategies, and to please contact their records analyst with any questions or concerns they may have.

Happy Electronic Records Day!

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