NARA/Electronic mail regulations

Billing Code 7515-01W
36 CFR part 1234
RIN 3095-AA58
Electronic Mail Systems
AGENCY:  National Archives and Records Administration
ACTION:  Notice of proposed rulemaking
SUMMARY:  The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
is developing standards for management of Federal records created
or received on electronic mail (E-mail) systems.  These standards
will be published as an appendix to regulations on electronic
records in 36 CFR part 1234 and will supplement the NARA
instructional guide, Managing Electronic Records.  The standards
would affect all Federal agencies.
DATES:  Comments must be submitted by [Insert date 90 days from
the date of publication].
ADDRESS:  Submit comments to Director, Records Appraisal and
Disposition Division, National Archives at College Park, 8601
Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.  Comments may be faxed
to (301) 713-6852 or (301) 713-6850.  Comments also may be sent
to the following Internet address:
Records Appraisal and Disposition Division, (301) 713-7096.

  NARA has been working with components of the Executive Office
of the President to develop specific records management policies
and procedures for their E-mail records, pursuant to court
rulings in Armstrong v. Executive Office of the President, 1 F.3d
1274 (D.C. Cir. 1993).  Because nearly all Federal agencies now
use E-mail, NARA recognizes that there also is the need for
Government-wide standards on managing E-mail records.
Consequently, NARA has drafted the following standards for all
Federal government agencies on the proper means of identifying,
maintaining, and disposing of Federal records created or received
on an E-mail system.  These standards reflect the legal
definition of records in the Federal Records Act (44 U.S.C. 3301)
and supplement NARA records management guidance previously issued
under the law (44 U.S.C. 2904 and 2905; 36 CFR Chapter XII
Subchapter B).
  When finalized, these general standards will be used by Federal
agencies to develop specific recordkeeping policies, procedures,
and requirements to fulfill their obligations under the statute
and regulations.  Agencies that already have specific E-mail
recordkeeping policies, procedures, and requirements in place
should review them to ensure that they are consistent with these
general NARA standards.  In addition, agencies are encouraged to
submit their directives implementing these standards to NARA for
review and comment.
  NARA has already issued regulations on electronic recordkeeping
(36 CFR part 1234), and an instructional guide, Managing
Electronic Records.  In addition, General Records Schedules 20,
Electronic Records, and 23, "Records Common to Most Offices,"
provide disposition authority for some types of records created
or received in electronic form.  These proposed new E-mail
standards will expand this general guidance on managing
electronic records.
  In developing these standards NARA has recognized that agency
E-mail systems have different characteristics and agencies have
differing recordkeeping requirements.  Some agencies may find
that currently it is only feasible to maintain E-mail records on
paper.  Other agencies may find that currently it is possible and
desirable to maintain E-mail records electronically.  While NARA
recognizes the practical considerations that may preclude
electronic maintenance of E-mail records at this time, agencies
are encouraged to consider the benefits for future use of
electronically maintaining those records that are likely to be
permanently valuable.  These benefits include the ease of
searching and manipulating electronic records, the availability
of electronic records to many users simultaneously, and efficient
storage.  Agencies that are not now technologically able to
maintain E-mail records electronically should consider electronic
maintenance when updating or designing systems.  This is
particularly important for E-mail records that are likely to be
appraised as permanent by NARA, such as records of cabinet
members or other high level officials.  The recent decision of
the Office of Administration of the Executive Office of the
President to begin maintaining its E-mail records in an
electronic recordkeeping system is an example of an agency
updating a system that contains permanently valuable records.
NARA encourages other agencies to consider the value of
electronic maintenance of E-mail records, and it will assist
agencies in evaluating the desirability of an electronic format.
  Agencies must also determine how to manage under the Federal
Records Act the transmission and receipt information in the
E-mail system.  The agency should decide how to maintain the
transmission and receipt information either as part of the E-mail
communication or as a separate record linked to the
communication.  Because printouts may not contain necessary
transmission and receipt information, the Court of Appeals in
Armstrong held that to comply with the Federal Records Act,
certain transmission and receipt information must be preserved
along with all E-mail messages that are Federal records.
  NARA will work closely with the agencies in the implementation
of the final standards and will review, upon request, agency
directives concerning E-mail records.  In addition, NARA records
management evaluations of agencies will include review and
analysis of the management of E-mail records.
  In soliciting comments from Federal agencies and the public,
NARA particularly requests that agencies address the practical
effects of compliance with these standards.  Specifically, NARA
is interested in how agencies manage documents with transmission
and receipt information and handle the other types of documents,
such as calendars, that are frequently part of electronic
communications systems.  In addition, NARA would like to learn
from agencies if they intend to maintain E-mail records
electronically now or in the future, and how they would monitor
the E-mail system for compliance with recordkeeping obligations.
Agencies are also encouraged to comment on any other aspect of
this guidance, or to request further information or
clarification.  NARA encourages those submitting comments to
include examples of solutions to electronic recordkeeping prob-
lems that may be of assistance to other agencies in developing
recordkeeping requirements and programs for these systems.
  List of subjects
  36 CFR part 1234
  Archives and records; Computer technology
  For the reasons set forth in the preamble, NARA proposes to
amend part 1234 of chapter XII of the Code of Federal Regulations
as follows:
  1.  The authority citation for part 1234 continues to read as
  AUTHORITY:  44 U.S.C. 2904, 3101, 3102, and 3105.
  2.  Appendix A is added to part 1234 as follows:
                        Appendix A to Part 1234 --
1. Introduction
  These standards cover documentary materials created or received
by electronic mail (E-mail) systems in Federal agencies.  Because
of the widespread use of E-mail for conducting agency business,
many E-mail documents meet the definition of a "record" under the
Federal Records Act (44 U.S.C. Chapters 29, 31, and 33).
  The definition of "record" in the Federal Records Act
encompasses documentary materials in all media.  The Act requires
the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to issue
records management standards for all Federal agencies (44 U.S.C.
2094 and 2905).  NARA has issued records management regulations
on electronic records (36 CFR part 1234), guidance on electronic
recordkeeping entitled Managing Electronic Records (1992), and
General Records Schedules 20, Electronic Records, and 23, Records
Common to Most Offices.  The standards being proposed here expand
the existing issuances and apply established records management
and archival principles and techniques to records created or
received on E-mail systems.  They provide instructions to program
officials, information specialists, records managers, and other
E-mail users on the proper means of identifying, maintaining, and
disposing of E-mail records.
2.  Definitions
  The following definitions of terms used in these standards are
included for clarity and convenience.  We have provided citations
to those that are based on definitions in the Federal Records Act
or existing NARA guidance or regulations.
    Electronic Mail System.  A computer application used to
    create, receive, and transmit messages and other documents
    or create calendars that can be used by multiple staff
    members.  Excluded from this definition are file transfer
    utilities (software that transmits files between users but
    does not retain any transmission data), data systems used to
    collect and process data that have been organized into data
    files or data bases on either personal computers or
    mainframe computers, and word processing documents not
    transmitted on an E-mail system.
    Electronic Record.  Numeric, graphic, text, and any other
    information recorded on any medium that can be read by using
    a computer and satisfies the definition of a Federal record
    in 44 U.S.C. 3301.  This includes, but is not limited to,
    both on-line storage and off-line media such as tapes,
    disks, and optical disks.  [36 CFR 1234.1]
    Electronic Mail Message.  A document created or received on
    an E-mail system including brief notes, more formal or sub-
    stantive narrative documents, and any attachments, such as
    word processing documents, which may be transmitted with the
    General Records Schedules.  Schedules authorizing the
    disposal, after the lapse of specified periods of time, of
    records common to several or all agencies if such records
    will not, at the end of the periods specified, have
    sufficient administrative, legal, research, or other value
    to warrant their further preservation by the United States
    Government.  [44 U.S.C. 3303a(d)]
    Nonrecord Material.  Materials that do not meet the
    statutory definition of records (44 U.S.C. 3301), i.e., they
    were not created or received under Federal law or in
    connection with Government business, or they are not
    preserved or considered appropriate for preservation because
    they lack evidence of agency activities or information of
    value.  In addition, the statute specifically excludes from
    coverage extra copies of documents kept only for convenience
    of reference, stocks of publications and processed
    documents, and library or museum materials intended solely
    for reference or exhibit.  [36 CFR 1220.14, 1222.34(d)]
    Nonrecord materials also include personal papers and
    Permanent Record.  Any Federal record that NARA has
    determined to have sufficient value to warrant its continued
    preservation by the National Archives and Records
    Administration.  [36 CFR 1220.14]
    Preserved Record.  Documentary materials that have been
    deliberately filed, stored, or otherwise systematically
    maintained as evidence of the organization, functions,
    policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other
    activities of the Government or because of the informational
    value of the data in them.  This applies to documentary
    materials in a file or other storage system, including
    electronic files and systems, and those temporarily removed
    from the files or other storage system.
    Records.  All books, papers, maps, photographs, machine
    readable materials, or other documentary materials,
    regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or
    received by an agency of the United States under Federal law
    or in connection with the transaction of public business and
    preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or
    its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization,
    functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or
    other activities of the Government or because of the
    informational value of data in them.  [44 U.S.C. 3301]
    Recordkeeping System.  A system for collecting, organizing,
    and storing records in order to facilitate their
    preservation, retrieval, use, and disposition and to fulfill
    recordkeeping requirements.
    Records Management.  The planning, controlling, directing,
    organizing, training, promoting, and other managerial
    activities involved with respect to records creation,
    records maintenance and use, and records disposition in
    order to achieve adequate and proper documentation of the
    policies and transactions of the Federal Government and
    effective and economical management of agency operations.
    [36 CFR 1220.14]
    Records Schedule.  A document describing, providing instruc-
    tions for, and approving the disposition of specified
    Federal records.  It consists of one of the following:
      (a) An SF 115, Request for Records Disposition Authority,
          which NARA has approved to authorize the disposition
          of Federal records;
      (b) A General Records Schedule (GRS) issued by NARA; or
      (c) A printed agency manual or directive containing the
          records descriptions and disposition instructions
          approved by NARA on one or more SF 115s or issued by
          NARA in the GRS.
    [36 CFR 1220.14]
    Security Backup.  Copy of a record in any medium created to
    provide a means of ensuring retention and access in the
    event the original record is destroyed, inaccessible, or
    System Backup.  Copy on off-line storage media of software
    and data stored on direct access storage devices in a
    computer system used to recreate a system and its data in
    case of unintentional loss of data or software.
    Temporary Record.  Any Federal record that the Archivist of
    the United States has determined to have insufficient value
    to warrant its preservation by the National Archives and
    Records Administration.        [36 CFR 1220.14]
    Transmission and Receipt Data.
      (a) Transmission Data.  Information in E-mail systems
          regarding the identities of sender and addressee(s),
          and the date and time messages were sent.
      (b) Receipt Data.  Information in E-mail systems regarding
          date and time of receipt of a message, and/or
          acknowledgment of receipt or access by addressee(s).
3.  Records Management Responsibilities
  Under the Federal Records Act, agencies' records management re-
sponsibilities include creating and maintaining adequate and
proper Federal records, regardless of the medium in which the
records are created or received, and scheduling the disposition
of records no longer needed for conduct of Government business
(44 U.S.C. Chapters 31 and 33).  Agencies are legally obligated
to ensure creation and maintenance, for an appropriate period, of
"records containing adequate and proper documentation of the
organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and es-
sential transactions of the agency. . . ."  (44 U.S.C. 3101).
Because E-mail is often used to conduct Government business, it
is critical that agencies take steps to ensure that records
created or received on E-mail systems are managed according to
the law.  Accordingly, agencies must develop and implement an
agency-wide program for the management of all Federal records
created or received on electronic communications systems (36 CFR
1234.10(a)).  All features of E-mail systems (including messages,
calendars, directories, distribution lists, attachments such as
word processing documents, messages sent or received over
external communications systems) must be evaluated to identify
documentary materials that satisfy the definition of Federal
records.  An agency's records management program should address
all Federal records in the E-mail system.  The agency should also
incorporate procedures that ensure recordkeeping and disposition
requirements are met before approving a new E-mail system or
enhancements to an existing system [36 CFR 1234.10(d)].
4.  What Are Federal Records?
  The definition of "records" in the Federal Records Act
specifies the criteria under which documentary materials are to
be considered Federal records.  The phrase "regardless of
physical form or characteristics" means that the records may be
paper, film, disk, or any other physical type or form; and that
the method used to record information may be manual, mechanical,
photographic, electronic, or any combination of these or other
  Whatever the medium, the statute establishes two conditions
that must be met for a document to be a record:  (1) the document
is made or received by agency personnel under Federal law or in
connection with the transaction of public business, and (2) it is
preserved or appropriate for preservation.  Documentary
materials, in any physical form, are Federal records when they
meet both tests.  The word "preserved" means the deliberate act
of filing, storing, or otherwise systematically maintaining
material as evidence of the organization, functions, policies,
decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the
Government or because of the informational value of the data in
it.  "Appropriate for preservation" means documentary materials
made or received by an agency which in its judgment should be
filed, stored, or otherwise systematically maintained by the
agency because of the evidence of agency activities or
information they contain, even though the materials may not be
covered by its current filing or maintenance procedures (36 CFR
1222.12).  Agencies must apply carefully reasoned judgment in
deciding when E-mail documents are "appropriate for preservation"
and in exercising this judgment, must consider their obligation
to create and maintain records that adequately document their
policies, programs, and activities under 44 U.S.C. 3101 (see
previous section entitled Records Management Responsibilities).
5.  Record Status of E-mail Messages
  It is critical that all E-mail users understand the concept of
Federal records and that agencies provide sufficient information
for users to distinguish Federal records from nonrecord
materials.  E-mail messages are Federal records when they meet
the criteria specified in the statutory definition, i.e., they
are made or received under Federal law or in the conduct of
agency business, and they are preserved or are appropriate for
preservation as evidence of the agency's organization, functions,
policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities,
or contain information of value.  Since E-mail systems transmit a
variety of messages, not all E-mail documents will meet the
statutory definition of records.
  Some categories of E-mail messages or documents that would
satisfy the definition of record are those:
  1.  containing information developed in preparing position
      papers, reports, and studies;
  2.  reflecting official actions taken in the course of
      conducting agency business;
  3.  conveying information on agency programs, policies,
      decisions, and essential transactions;
  4.  conveying statements of policy or the rationale for
      official decisions or actions;
  5.  documenting oral exchanges, such as meetings or telephone
      conversations, during which policy was discussed or
      formulated or other agency activities were planned,
      discussed, or transacted.
  E-mail messages are not considered nonrecord materials merely
because the information they contain may also be available
elsewhere on paper or in electronic files.  Separate E-mail mess-
ages that contain the same information on Government activities
may differ in important respects and, thus, are not automatically
nonrecord materials.  In addition, multiple copies of messages
may all be records if they are used for different purposes in the
conduct of official business or filed in different files.  In
other words, if more than one office takes action or otherwise
uses copies of a message, copies would be records in each of
those offices.
  To assist in the process of determining record status, NARA
recommends that agencies consider designing into their current or
future E-mail systems a feature that helps users to identify
records.  For example, agencies may want their systems to allow
users to tag messages as record or nonrecord or to automatically
default to the determination that system-produced documents are
records, requiring users to take additional steps to mark a
document as nonrecord.  Another option would be to develop a
system that analyzes the contents of a message according to
specified rules in order to prompt the user with a suggested
  For further information on making these distinctions between
records and nonrecord materials, see Personal Papers of Executive
Branch Officials:  A Management Guide, published by NARA in 1992.
6.  Transmission and Receipt Data
  Besides the text of messages, E-mail systems may provide trans-
mission and receipt data.  In some systems, transmission data is
part of the message.  In other systems some transmission data is
in a separate message.  Generally, receipt data is separate from
the messages.
  E-mail messages require some transmission data to be intelligi-
ble and to understand their context.  It is essential that
necessary transmission data is preserved with all E-mail records.
Many E-mail systems automatically capture with an E-mail message
the identity of the sender and the addressee(s) and the date the
message was sent.  Just as with a paper record, this transmission
data is necessary for an E-mail record to be complete and under-
standable.  Agencies should determine if any other E-mail trans-
mission data is needed for purposes of adequacy of documentation.
Both the message and the related transmission data are Federal
records and must be maintained in recordkeeping systems for the
same retention period.  (See section entitled Maintenance of Federal
Records Created by an E-mail System, below.)
  E-mail systems may provide users with the ability to request
acknowledgments or receipts showing that an E-mail message
reached the mailbox or inbox of each addressee.  E-mail systems
may also provide, upon request, information about or
acknowledgments of E-mail messages that were received or viewed
by the addressee.  Agency instructions to E-mail system users
should specify when to request such receipts or acknowledgments.
Users should request receipt data when it is needed for adequate
and proper documentation of agency activities, especially when it
is necessary to confirm when an addressee has received or viewed
a message.  Agencies should maintain such receipts and acknowl-
edgments associated with Federal records for the same period as
the electronic message to which they refer.
7.  Draft Documents
  Agency staff may use the E-mail system to circulate draft
documents created on either the E-mail system or a separate word
processing or other system.  Preliminary drafts must be
maintained for purposes of adequate and proper documentation if
(1) they contain unique information, such as annotations or
comments, that helps explain the formulation or execution of
agency policies, decisions, actions, or responsibilities, and (2)
they were circulated or made available to employees other than
the creator for the purpose of approval, comment, action,
recommendation, follow-up, or to keep staff informed about agency
  Because drafts in electronic form may be Federal records, the
record status of electronically created drafts that are
transmitted as part of, or as attachments to, E-mail messages
must be evaluated as changes are made.  Successive drafts
containing substantive revisions may be Federal records; drafts
containing only minor changes are less likely to qualify as
records.  If the draft qualifies as a record, the agency should
save a copy before the draft is deleted or altered.
8.  Directories and Distribution Lists
  Some electronic communication systems identify users by codes
or nicknames.  Some identify the recipients of a communication
only by the name of a distribution list.  Directories or
distribution lists linking such shorthand names or codes with the
names of users must be retained to ensure identification of the
sender and addressee(s) of messages that are records.
9.  Calendars
  An E-mail system may provide calendars and task lists for
users.  Agencies that have such features on their E-mail system
should advise users that calendars, indexes of events, and task
lists are Federal records if they meet the criteria specified by
law.  Calendars, whether individual or shared, despite the level
of the individual to whom they relate, may be Federal records or
they may be personal materials.  The NARA publication Personal
Papers of Executive Branch Officials: a Management Guide provides
guidance on the record status of calendars.  That publication
notes that the Freedom of Information Act case law regarding
"agency records" is the most pertinent guidance for deciding
whether calendars are Federal records.
  Most calendars and related documents that are Federal records
are disposable under General Records Schedule 23, Item 5.
Federal record calendars that relate to the activities of high-
level officials, however, must be specifically scheduled for
disposition to allow NARA to appraise their value for future use.
GRS 23 provides guidance on identifying high-level officials.
Users may delete calendars that are nonrecord materials at their
10.  External Communications Systems
  Some Government agencies use electronic communications systems
external to the Government, such as the Internet or other
commercial network services.  These communications systems have
established protocols that are not subject to agency
modification.  However, the use of external communications
systems which are neither owned nor controlled by the agency does
not alter in any way the agency's obligation under the Federal
Records Act.  Agencies must ensure that Federal records sent or
received on these systems are preserved and that reasonable steps
are taken to capture available transmission and receipt data
needed by the agency.  As is the case with any Federal record,
those that are communicated to or received from persons outside
the agency or Government should include the identity of the
outside senders or addressees.
11.  Maintenance of Federal Records Created by an E-mail System
  Agencies must ensure that all E-mail records are maintained in
appropriate recordkeeping systems.  Such recordkeeping systems
must meet the following requirements:  (1) permit easy and timely
retrieval; (2) facilitate the distinction between record and
nonrecord materials (if such distinctions were not made
previously); (3) retain the records in a usable format until
their authorized disposition date; and (4) permit transfer of
permanent records to the National Archives and Records
Administration(see 36 CFR 1228.188,  36 CFR 1234.28(a)).
  Agencies should consider the advantages of maintaining their
records electronically.  An electronic system may be more easily
searched and manipulated than records in paper files.  An
electronic file may also be available for simultaneous use by
multiple staff members and may provide a more efficient method to
store records.  In addition, future use of permanently valuable
E-mail records for agencies and for historical research could be
enhanced by storing them electronically.
  System backup tapes normally are not suitable for recordkeeping
purposes because they are merely mirrors of storage disks with
data and documents scattered throughout as they are on the disks
themselves.  They are meant to provide only a means of recreating
a system and its data in case of emergency.  Agencies should have
a separate system that is appropriate for recordkeeping.
  In all cases when records are maintained electronically,
agencies should provide for regular backups to guard against
system failures or loss through inadvertent erasures [36 CFR
A.  Maintenance on the E-mail System
  E-mail systems are generally designed for convenient and effi-
cient agency communications and not as a system for storing
agency records for their entire life cycle.  To maintain
instantaneous communications capability without increasing
hardware capacity, these systems often limit the number of
messages that can accumulate on the system and may automatically
delete messages after a short period.  If an E-mail system is not
designed for or adaptable to use as a recordkeeping system,
E-mail records must be copied or moved to an appropriate record-
keeping system for maintenance and disposition.
B.  Maintenance in an Electronic Recordkeeping System Other than
    the E-mail System
  Some agencies store their E-mail records on an electronic
system separate from the E-mail system.  Agencies that maintain
their records in this way must move or copy all E-mail records to
the electronic recordkeeping system.  The recordkeeping system
must allow segregation of permanent and temporary records and
have sufficient capacity to store records for their authorized
retention periods (36 CFR 1234.10).
  Agencies may retain records from E-mail systems in an off-line
electronic storage format (such as optical disk or magnetic tape)
that meets the requirements described above (36 CFR 1234.28(a)).
Factors to be considered in selecting a storage medium or
converting from one medium to another are identified in 36 C.F.R.
1234.28(b)).  Agencies may use optical disk systems for the
storage and retrieval of permanent records while the records
remain in the agency's legal custody, but NARA currently does not
accession permanent records stored on optical disks.  Permanent
records stored on optical disk must be converted to a medium
acceptable to NARA at the time of transfer to NARA's legal
custody, as specified in 36 C.F.R. 1228.188.
C.  Maintenance in Paper Recordkeeping Systems
  Agencies that do not have the technological capability to
maintain E-mail records in an electronic recordkeeping system
must print their E-mail records.  In such instances, agencies
must also print related transmission and receipt data and
maintain it together with the printed communications according to
the same procedures as other paper records.
  Other agencies may have the technological capability to
maintain E-mail records electronically but, nevertheless,
determine that current agency use is best served by also printing
them on to paper.  While it is the agency's responsibility to
determine whether its current needs are best served by one or
both formats, an electronic format may be in the best interest of
future use.  Accordingly, agencies must schedule and NARA must
appraise both formats before E-mail records are deleted from the
electronic recordkeeping system.  This ensures the opportunity
for NARA to determine the best format for the preservation of
records of potential historical or other research value.  (See
the section below for instructions on the disposition of
  Any agencies that maintain E-mail records only on paper even
though they have the technology to maintain them electronically
are strongly encouraged to consider the benefits of an electronic
format.  NARA will assist such agencies in evaluating the
advantages of maintaining E-mail records electronically.
  Those agencies that have no plans for implementing an
electronic recordkeeping system are also encouraged to consider
this format when their current systems are redesigned or
12.  Disposition of E-mail Records
  E-mail records may not be deleted or otherwise disposed of
without prior disposition authority from NARA (44 U.S.C. 3303a).
This applies to all versions of E-mail records, including the
original record that is on the E-mail system and all copies that
have been forwarded to a recordkeeping system.  NARA authorizes
records disposition through two mechanisms; issuance of the
General Records Schedules developed by NARA for temporary records
common to most or all Federal agencies, and approval of schedules
developed by agencies for records unique to the agency.  The
authorization process employed by NARA involves appraisal, which
is the determination of the historical or other value of the
records including the most appropriate format for future use when
the same information is captured in records on different physical
  Electronic records must be scheduled even if the same
information is available in another medium, including paper
printouts of electronically stored records.  Information in
electronic records may have greater research utility than similar
information stored on another medium because it is easier to
access and manipulate.  Also, it may be more efficient to capture
transmission and receipt data in electronic systems.  Thus, the
disposition of electronic records may differ from the disposition
of paper records with the same information.  The disposition of
all records, regardless of medium (paper, magnetic, microform,
etc.) must be in accordance with an approved schedule.
A.  Records on the E-mail system
  If an agency has an E-mail system that is designed for or is
adaptable for use as an agency recordkeeping system as well as a
communications system, users must be instructed on the required
steps to be taken to ensure that the record on the user's screen
or in his or her mailbox is forwarded to the recordkeeping
feature of the system.  If, on the other hand, an agency has an
E-mail system that cannot also serve as a recordkeeping system,
users should be instructed to forward all records from the E-mail
system to an appropriate recordkeeping system to ensure that the
records are preserved and the E-mail system continues to operate
efficiently.  When the necessary steps have been taken to
preserve the record by using the recordkeeping feature or by
forwarding it to an appropriate recordkeeping system, the
identical version that remains on the user's screen or in the
user's mailbox has no continuing value to the agency or for
future research.  Therefore, NARA considers the version of the
record on the "live" E-mail system appropriate for deletion after
it has been preserved on a recordkeeping system along with all
appropriate transmission data.  NARA will revise General Records
Schedule 23 to authorize deletion of the copy of the record on
the "live" E-mail system after the necessary preservation steps
have been taken.  This general authorization will apply only to
the E-mail record on the "live" E-mail system.  There is no
formal authorization at this time for agencies to delete E-mail
records from the E-mail system if they are stored only on the
system itself or if they have been transferred to an electronic
recordkeeping system.  The revised General Records Schedule will
extend the authorization to these categories of records.
B.  Records in recordkeeping systems
  Because E-mail records must be maintained for varying retention
periods and, when appraised as permanent, transferred to NARA, it
is not appropriate for NARA to issue a General Records Schedule
that pertains to all E-mail records in recordkeeping systems.
Consequently, those E-mail records that have been incorporated
into a recordkeeping system that includes records from other
sources or systems must be managed in accordance with the records
schedule of the recordkeeping system in which they are filed.
Alternatively, those E-mail records that are maintained as a
separate system must be separately scheduled.  Agencies must
develop and submit to NARA schedules that identify the categories
of E-mail records in their systems if they are maintained
separately so that NARA can appraise the records and provide
appropriate disposition authority.
  As indicated previously, it is established NARA policy that
agencies that maintain records in paper and electronic formats
must receive the approval of NARA before disposing of either
format.  This will ensure that future use considerations enter
into determinations of the most appropriate format for the
preservation of permanent records.
13.  Security of E-mail Records
  Agencies must take adequate measures to protect records in
E-mail systems (36 CFR 1234.26).  Security measures must protect
E-mail records from unauthorized alterations or deletions.
Agencies should regularly back up messages stored on-line to off-
line media to guard against system failures or inadvertent
14.  Training Employees
  Agencies must ensure that all employees are familiar with the
legal requirements for creation, maintenance, and disposition of
records on E-mail systems.  The agency's directives must provide
sufficient guidance so that agency personnel are familiar with
the agency's specific recordkeeping requirements and can
distinguish between records and nonrecord materials on E-mail
systems [36 CFR 1222.30].  Because Federal records may be created
using an E-mail system, each agency using an E-mail system should
provide records management training and guidance for all
employees which includes criteria for determining which E-mail
messages are records.  As indicated above, it may be useful for
agencies to have designed into their E-mail systems a feature
that helps users to identify Federal records.
15.  Monitoring Implementation of Recordkeeping Guidance for the
E-mail System
  Agencies are responsible for monitoring the implementation of
records management guidance to ensure that E-mail users are accu-
rately identifying records and properly maintaining them.  Each
agency must ensure that the implementation of directives
concerning records on its E-mail system is carried out by
reviewing the systems periodically for conformance to established
agency procedures.  These reviews should consist of auditing or
reviewing representative samples of all electronic
communications, conducting periodic staff interviews, and
internal records management evaluations.  The purpose of these
reviews is to ensure that E-mail users properly determine record
status and that record messages are being properly maintained.
These reviews would determine whether permanent and temporary
records are segregable and schedules are being implemented
properly.  Such reviews should be used to correct errors when
they are found, and to evaluate, clarify, and update agency
recordkeeping directives, disposition schedules, and training for
agency staff (36 CFR 1234.10(l)).  Reports concerning the results
of the reviews should be made available to NARA upon request and
when it conducts evaluations of the agency's records management
16.  Conclusion
    E-mail systems provide unprecedented communications conven-
ience.  However, agencies must take the necessary measures to
ensure that there is no diminution of their records resulting
from the use of E-mail systems.  E-mail systems have become
important tools for the transmission of substantive information,
and, therefore, they are used to create Federal records.
Agencies must take special care that employees understand their
responsibilities when using E-mail to ensure the adequate
creation and proper maintenance and disposition of Federal
  As specified in 44 U.S.C. 3102, NARA and the agencies shall
cooperate in the implementation of NARA standards.  Agencies
should amend their recordkeeping policies and procedures where
necessary to meet these standards.  NARA will assist agencies in
implementing these standards by reviewing agency directives
concerning E-mail and by participating in agency considerations
of maintaining permanent E-mail records electronically.  NARA and
the agencies will work together to ensure that recordkeeping
policies and programs for E-mail records serve the needs of the
agencies and the needs of future researchers.
  Dated: March 18, 1994

Acting Archivist of the United States

[Search all CoOL documents]

URL: http://