Florida to employees: Keep that tweet (and status update, IM, SMS, etc.)

Florida's state and local government agencies got new instructions this month for retaining electronic communications.

In other words, it’s all about the content of the message not the form that it’s in that determines how something should be retained -- even if, say, it’s sent over an instant message or tweet. State officials said the retention of electronic messages should generally be the same as the retention for records in any other format that document the same program or activity. There is no single retention period that applies to all electronic messages, the state said.

The state of Florida is updating its record-keeping regulations to reflect the extent to which employees are using social media and other technology to communicate at work.

Until now, Florida’s rules for retaining electronic communications as official state records were written with e-mail in mind. But a new section in the state’s General Records Schedule for State and Local Government Agencies specifically mentions electronic messaging services such as SMS, BlackBerry PIN, MMS, Facebook, and Twitter.

“Retention periods are determined by the content, nature and purpose of records, and are set based on their legal, fiscal, administrative, and historical values, regardless of the format in which they reside or the method by which they are transmitted,” the new section reads.


Related article:
Preservation Road: Visual and audio records say more than text ever could


Meanwhile, the new policy also explains that electronic communications that are created primarily to communicate information of short-term value may be considered “transitory messages.” But again, the term “transitory” refers to short-term value based on the content of the message, not on the form in which the message is sent.

Sarah Carter, vice president of strategy for the security and compliance firm FaceTime, said her company has received requests from prospective clients in Florida who have to deal with the change. Carter said she’s seen similar changes made by the private sector and she doesn’t think Florida will be the last state to follow suit.

“I think it will push through into more and more of state and local governments,” she said.

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