Summary 30-1-70 establishes your responsibility to protect
An electronic mail message or “e-mail” consists of a the records you create and to make them
digitally stored message and any attached digital available for easy use. The act does not
documents transferred between computer users. discriminate between media types. Therefore,
State and local governments use e-mail for a variety records created or formatted electronically are
of tasks such as sending and receiving internal and covered under the act.
external correspondence, distributing memos, ◆ South Carolina Uniform Electronic Transactions
circulating drafts, disseminating directives, Act [UETA] (Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1976,
transferring official documents, and supporting Section 26-6-10 through 26-6-210), enacted in
various business processes of the organization. 2004, facilitates electronic commerce and
Although few public agencies currently manage electronic government services by legally placing
e-mail as records, both statute and case law make electronic records and signatures on equal footing
clear that e-mail must be included in your overall with their paper counterparts. UETA officially
records management strategy. repeals the 1998 South Carolina Electronic
E-mail documents that hold information about the Commerce Act (Code of Laws of South Carolina,
day-to-day operation of state and local government 1976, Section 26-5-310 through 26-5-370). The
must be easy to locate, those that hold information purpose of UETA is to establish policy relating to
of long term or permanent value must be adequately the use of electronic communications and records
protected, and those of transitory value must be in contractual transactions. This law does not
deleted when no longer needed. Allowing e-mail to require the use of electronic records and
be managed by personal preference or routine signatures but allows for them where agreed upon
systems back-ups and administrative procedures by all involved parties. While technology neutral,
that treat all e-mail alike can result in serious legal, the law stipulates that all such records and
operational, and public relations risks. By signatures must remain trustworthy and
establishing policies, applying records management accessible for later reference as required by law.
procedures, and training users, you can create an Along a similar vein, the federal Electronic
environment that promotes successful management Signatures in Global and National Commerce (E-
of e-mail records. Sign) Act [U.S. Public Law 106-229] also
encourages the use of electronic documents and
Legal Framework signatures, although it goes further to provide
For more information on the legal framework you some guidelines regarding standards and formats.
must consider when managing e-mail, refer to For more information on UETA see Appendices A6
Records Management in an Electronic Environment in and A7 of the Trustworthy Information Systems
the Electronic Records Management Guidelines and Handbook.
Appendix A6 of the Trustworthy Information Systems ◆ South Carolina Freedom of Information Act [FOIA]
Handbook. Also review the requirements of the: (Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1976, Section
◆ South Carolina Public Records Act [PRA] (Code of 30-4-10 through 30-4-165) supports government
Laws of South Carolina, 1976, Section 30-1-10 accountability by ensuring the right of citizens to
through 30-1-140, as amended) available at inspect or copy public records. The establishment
www.scstatehouse.org/code/t30c001.htm, which of fees, formal public notification, and
supports government accountability by mandating restrictions limiting public disclosure of certain
the use of retention schedules to manage records records is covered.
of South Carolina public entities. This law governs MORE ➔
the management of all records created by South Carolina Department of Archives & History
agencies or entities supported in whole or in part www.state.sc.us/scdah/erg/erg.htm
by public funds in South Carolina. Section Version 1 — EMM
Additional Legal Considerations and Google provide public accounts available to
Within the context of these laws, you should also anyone. Private e-mail accounts, such as a work
consider: account, are limited to employees or individuals
◆ The ramifications of the Armstrong litigation. In associated with an organization.
Armstrong v. Executive Office of the President (1 ◆ Software applications, called e-mail clients, are
F.3d 1274 [DC Cir 1993]), a federal court found in used to compose, send, receive display and
favor of a group of researchers and nonprofit manage e-mail messages. The applications may be
organizations who wanted to prevent the text or graphics based. Both proprietary and open
destruction of e-mail records created during the source e-mail clients are available. They include
Reagan administration. The court determined that Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, Thunderbird,
federal government agency e-mail messages, Pine, and Eudora. Internet sites such as MSN,
depending on content, are public records and Yahoo, and Google also provide e-mail capability
that complete metadata must be captured and using their software applications.
retained with the e-mail record. Although a ◆ Dedicated servers, known as e-mail servers, are
federal decision, this litigation has strongly often used to route and store large volumes of
influenced government agencies at all levels. e-mail.
Other agencies are now paying closer attention to ◆ Depending on your agency’s specific arrangement,
their e-mail records management practices, e-mail servers can be housed internally in your
including the capture of metadata. agency and managed by your IT staff or housed
◆ Legal discovery. When developing your policy, and managed by others at a separate facility.
balance your legal and operational requirements ◆ Transactional information is information about an
with the risk of being engaged in legal discovery. e-mail message. This metadata can include the
You must meet all government requirements for name of the sender and all recipients, the date
managing your e-mail records, but you should and time the message was created and sent. It
also be able to respond to discovery in an may also include information on the systems and
affordable, efficient, and practical way. Bear in software applications used to create and transmit
mind that many courts have upheld discovery the message. Transactional information may not
requests for e-mail records. For more information always be visible in every application but it is a
on the discovery of electronic records, refer to vital part of every message and steps must be
Appendix A7 of the Trustworthy Information taken to preserve it.
◆ The Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Other electronic messaging systems
Act of 1996 [HIPAA] (Public Law 104-191) which In addition to e-mail, there are other electronic
establishes security and privacy standards for messaging systems available to most organizations.
health information. The Act protects the Two popular systems are voice mail and instant
confidentiality and integrity of “individually messaging. A message created and managed in
identifiable health information,” past, present or these systems may also be considered a record.
future. Visit the South Carolina HIPAA website at Therefore, organizations should review all messaging
www.hipaa.state.sc.us/ for additional systems in use and include any records covered
information. under the existing records retention and disposition
process. Work with your records management staff
What is electronic mail? to develop new schedules where needed. For
E-mail is a confusing term because it can refer to additional information on retention schedules, see
both the system and the messages in the system. the guideline Records Management in an Electronic
Furthermore, it can also be used to describe the Environment.
action of sending or receiving a message. Here are
some basic facts about e-mail to help clarify the Voice mail
process: Voice mail is a highly sophisticated, computerized
◆ E-mail is the exchange of computer stored system for receiving, recording, saving, and
information though a network. It relies on managing voice messages. Although telephone-
software applications and protocols (rules) to
compose, transmit, receive, and manage e-mail
South Carolina Department of Archives & History
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accounts. Internet online services such as Yahoo Page 2
based voice mail is well-established in many on the legal, fiscal, administrative, or historical
organizations and used for important public value of the information contained in the record.
business, it has rarely been managed as a record. The application of record retention schedules does
not change because a record is received or sent
Recent technological advances that blur the
distinction between e-mail and voice mail could
make it easier to capture and manage audio records. Official copies
New services including those utilizing Voice over The official copy is the record copy — the document
Internet Protocol (VoIP) are capable of delivering that constitutes the record of a business
messages as audio files via e-mail. Therefore, voice transaction.
mail messages saved as e-mail can be managed
along with other e-mail relating to the same topic.
Convenience copies are duplicates of the record
copy and have only temporary value. They can be
Instant messaging disposed of at any time without authorization and
Instant messaging (IM) is a service that permits should never be kept longer than the record copy.
individuals to quickly exchange electronic messages
with selected others in an informal manner that Scheduling records
mimics conversation. Instant messaging differs from You must prepare record retention schedules in
ordinary e-mail in the immediacy of the message accordance with the Public Records Act to retain or
exchange that makes a continued exchange simpler dispose of all official copies of e-mail records
than sending e-mail back and forth. Most exchanges relating to government business.
are text-only, however, some services allow voice Other records
messaging and file sharing. Transitory and personal messages that do not
support government business as well as convenience
Designating e-mail as public records or duplicate copies of e-mail records should be
Determining value and retention deleted from personal mailboxes when no longer
The value of e-mail needed. These include copies or extracts of
Not all e-mail requires the same level of control. documents distributed or received for reference —
Although identification of e-mail records relating to listserv or bulletin board posts, personal messages,
the activities of public organizations will always be announcements unrelated to official business, and
subjective, certain categories of records will announcements of social events like retirement
typically be important to identify and manage. parties or holiday celebrations. These materials
These include: consume disk space, erode the efficiency of the
◆ Policies and directives system, and, if kept, could be subject to freedom of
◆ Work schedules and assignments information requests and discoverable in legal
◆ Drafts of documents circulated for approval or
comment Retention periods
◆ Any document that initiates, authorizes, or Generally, records transmitted through e-mail
completes a business transaction systems will have the same retention periods as
◆ Final reports or recommendations records in other formats. E-mail letters and memos,
for example, will be retained and disposed of
◆ Correspondence, memos, or messages about
according to the retention periods established for
agency or local government business
various types of correspondence. Many e-mail
◆ Agendas and minutes of meetings messages will be part of a distinct record series.
Those messages should be retained and disposed of
Declaring e-mail messages as records according to the retention period established for
Retention and disposition that series. You should use existing schedules to
Under the terms of the South Carolina Public manage e-mail that has direct paper counterparts.
Records Act, the South Carolina Department of
Archives and History [SCDAH] administers South The SCDAH has issued several general record
Carolina’s program for the retention and disposition schedules for many types of records, common to
of public records. When thinking about e-mail state and local government, including MORE ➔
records and retention schedules, it is important to South Carolina Department of Archives & History
remember that retention periods are based not on www.state.sc.us/scdah/erg/erg.htm
the method by which a record is created but rather Version 1 — EMM
correspondence. Records having no significance Consult your records management staff or the
beyond their initial use should be destroyed, SCDAH for advice on applying general record
according to an approved retention schedule, when schedules.
no longer needed for reference. Keep in mind that
Responsibility for retention
simply deleting a message may not remove it
You must determine who is responsible for retention
completely from the storage media. Utility programs
of the official copy. The chart below provides
are available to permanently remove electronic
examples of the most common situations.
messages and eliminate the possibility of recovery.
Who is Responsible for Maintaining E-mail?
Message sent from outside the agency Message sent from inside the agency
Retained by the person who receives e-mail Sender is responsible for maintaining if the message is
complete and un-altered
Exception: If the person receiving the message is not Exception: If message is altered (responded to, edited,
authorized to respond to the e-mail and forwards the message attachments added), the receiver is responsible for
to someone else, the person receiving the forwarded message maintaining it. Keep in mind, if there are multiple replies
is responsible for maintaining it. between two or more people to the same message, only the
final message needs to be saved PROVIDING that all of the
replies are included in the final message.
For additional information about retention and disposition, refer to the guideline, Records Management in an
Goals for successful e-mail management
Although your agency will develop unique — Directory of e-mail addresses and the
procedures that meet your specific operational and corresponding staff member names (e.g.,
legal requirements, bear in mind the following goals firstname.lastname@example.org is Jane Doe). This connects
for an e-mail record. An e-mail record should be: an e-mail address listed in an e-mail record to
◆ Complete. E-mail records should completely a person.
document the transaction. For example, you ◆ Accurate. The contents of the e-mail record
cannot save the text without the sender should accurately reflect the transaction.
information. Complete e-mail records must ◆ Accessible. Some e-mail records must be
include all of the following elements, as accessible to the public and some should not
applicable: depending on the content of the record and as
— Recipient(s) determined by FOIA and HIPAA. All e-mail
— Sender records, like other electronic records, should be
— Time sent reasonably accessible for the purposes of legal
◆ Manageable. E-mail records should be easy for
— Date sent
staff members to manage as part of the daily
— Subject lines should clearly describe the workflow and records management practices.
contents of the message (e.g., the subject line Because staff members will implement and use
“Correction” is inadequate. “Correction to the e-mail records management policy, procedures
Tourism Board Minutes 2005March15” provides should be straightforward.
a better description).
◆ Secure. The e-mail record should reside in a
— Attachments should be included in full (not secure system that controls access, storage,
just indicated by file name). retrieval, alteration, and deletion. This is
— List members e-mailed using distribution lists. particularly important in controlling access to
If an e-mail record simply lists the group name confidential e-mail records as determined by
in the recipient field, the recipients must be FOIA and HIPAA. E-mail records present unique
identifiable. For example, the distribution list
“HR” (a distribution list for all the members of
South Carolina Department of Archives & History
the human resources department) should be www.state.sc.us/scdah/erg/erg.htm
documented so that each member of the list is March 2005
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named. Page 4
security concerns, because e-mail messages are: deleted may be recoverable and used in a legal
— Easily manipulated or deleted in the system action.
— Easily captured and read by unintended Staff roles and responsibilities
persons Your policy should clearly define the roles and
— Easily forwarded and misdirected by mistake responsibilities that managers, network
administrators, technical staff, records management
staff, support staff, and users will have in the
Information technology departments rely management of e-mail. It should clearly
on backup copies of data to replace communicate whether the sender or the receiver
information lost due to a catastrophic should save e-mail records. The policy should guide
event. Although essential for disaster staff members in determining which e-mail
planning, backups are not an efficient or messages are records and outline a procedure for
acceptable way to consistently manage grouping e-mails into records series with a records
important agency e-mail records. retention schedule for each series.
Adoption and oversight of an appropriate
and secure recordkeeping system as Management and retention
described in this chapter and the Because the Public Records Act requires custodians
Trustworthy Recordkeeping Systems to protect their records and to work with the SCDAH
Handbook is recommended. to establish retention periods, your policy should
describe how and where you will maintain the
official copies of your e-mail and provide for their
Developing E-mail Policy management, protection, and retention for as long
as they have administrative, legal, fiscal, or
E-mail Policy Components research value. For information on maintaining
You should establish policies to guide users on authentic and reliable records see the Trustworthy
questions of acceptable use, the management and Information Systems Handbook.
retention of official copies, privacy, and access. All
users should understand these policies and be able Filing and maintenance
to apply them. The components of an e-mail Only the official copy of those e-mail records that
retention policy should include information on: relate to agency or local government business
functions need to be filed and maintained in a
Acceptable use recordkeeping system. Additional copies, transitory
Written policies should be established for the use of communications, and personal messages can simply
e-mail in the same way they are established for the be deleted from the e-mail system when no longer
use of the telephone, fax machine, and postal mail. needed. Include procedures for organizing, storing,
Access maintaining, accessing, and disposing of e-mail
Because government e-mail can be defined as a records. Your policy should define how users are to
public record, e-mail policies must comply with the manage their accounts including the regular removal
state’s Freedom of Information Act and Public of personal and transitory messages from their mail
Records Act. FOIA gives the public the right to boxes.
access records, but it also limits access to some Document Policy
information considered personal or private. Establish a procedure for documenting your e-mail
Custodians of public records must make their records records policy. On an on-going basis, from initial
available for public inspection provided that the development onward, document the development of
information is not exempt from disclosure as your e-mail records management policy, the policy
determined by FOIA and HIPAA. itself, and changes to the policy. Include a
Privacy description of the software and hardware in use, any
Your policy should make it clear that although you training provided to staff, staff member
attempt to provide security, e-mail messages sent or responsibilities, and records retention schedules.
received are not private. They may be accessed and
monitored by others, may be released to the public MORE ➔
under provisions of FOIA, and may be subject to
discovery proceedings in legal actions. Because South Carolina Department of Archives & History
computers can store messages at multiple locations www.state.sc.us/scdah/erg/erg.htm
within the system, even messages a user has Version 1 — EMM
Steps for better e-mail policy ◆ use a mix of manual and electronic systems and
Use the following steps to guide you as you develop Each method has its advantages and disadvantages;
your e-mail records management policy: each requires a different degree of technical
1. Draft the policy and process with the input of support; all require supervision and management. In
stakeholders. making your selection, be sure that:
2. Allow stakeholders to review before finalizing the ◆ it meets the needs of users
policy. ◆ it complies with all recordkeeping requirements.
3. Implement the policy for staff members on a ◆ you have the tools, written policies and
planned schedule and test the procedures. procedures
4. Train the staff members on the new procedures. ◆ users understand the policies and procedures, are
(Training is especially important because you familiar with the tools, and can apply all three
must rely on staff members to ensure the consistently to all records
integrity of the procedures.)
5. Document the policy. Option 1: Electronic filing
This method requires the establishment of an
Training for Staff Members electronic filing process using a secure shared
To ensure an effective system, you must provide network server. The filing process should be used to
user training and support. Your users should know collect and store related electronic records
how to identify the official copies of e-mail records. including, but not limited to, e-mail. A single
They should also know how to use the software to employee or small group of employees should be
manage, protect, and provide access to the records. appointed to oversee the process and system
Your training and documentation should provide including the establishment of naming protocol and
guidelines that staff members can follow to answer file structure. They should also be responsible for
questions in the course of their work. Possible assigning access privileges to the system including
questions include: delegation of privileges to add, delete or edit
◆ Is this e-mail an official record? Is this e-mail specific files and records. For suggestions on
message administrative or personal (e.g., establishing naming conventions see the Electronic
“Thursday staff meeting to start an hour late.” or Records Management guideline File Naming.
“Let’s do lunch!”)? Keep in mind that e-mail systems are not
◆ Does this e-mail message have long-term or recordkeeping systems and messages should only be
permanent significance (e.g., “New policy stored temporarily within an e-mail system.
finalized.”)? Does this e-mail message document Retaining important e-mail within the e-mail system
a transaction or operations function (e.g., a disconnects it from other related information and
process, a decision, or a discussion)? makes it susceptible to loss through regular system
◆ Is this e-mail record public or confidential as set purges. If not immediately relocated to a separate
forth by FOIA or HIPAA? electronic filing system, important messages should
◆ What metadata must I capture when I save this be removed from the e-mail client’s “inbox” and
e-mail record? grouped into clearly named folders using the e-mail
◆ To which records series does this e-mail record client software. Folders should later be exported to
belong? the electronic filing system.
◆ Should I save the complete e-mail record, Advantages. You retain the ability to easily search
including attachments and group list names? for, retrieve, or retransmit messages electronically.
◆ Could this e-mail message be required as You may also retain important information related
evidence in a legal action? to the distribution of the e-mail. Depending on the
filing arrangement used, it may be an effective way
Preserving e-mail to integrate similar records that are created and
received in electronic form.
You can use one of four methods to file and
maintain your official copies of e-mail records: MORE ➔
◆ establish an electronic filing process
◆ maintain them in an electronic document South Carolina Department of Archives & History
management system www.state.sc.us/scdah/erg/erg.htm
◆ print and file them in a manual system Version 1 — EMM
Disadvantages. The process requires active important information related to the distribution of
participation of all e-mail users. If not consistently the e-mail. Furthermore, documents can be misfiled
and accurately managed, records are difficult to when users are responsible for printing, routing, and
locate. Unless all records are in electronic format, filing their own messages and this option consumes
you will also have to coordinate filing systems for a great amount of paper and storage space. When
records in both paper and electronic formats. choosing this method, you may want to print and
Requires the use of a separate secure shared drive file all information on addresses, recipients,
controlled by a limited number of employees to distribution, transmission, and receipt of important
protect official copies from unauthorized access and e-mail documents.
prevent storage of duplicate copies.
Option 4: A mix of manual and electronic
Option 2: Electronic Document Management systems
System Even when the goal is to install an electronic
You can store, access, and manage e-mail messages recordkeeping system for all records, most offices
and other electronic records in an Electronic will have a transition period during which they will
Document Management System (EDMS). have to maintain records in both electronic and
paper formats. When maintaining a mix of systems,
Advantages. If the EDMS is secure and properly
you should make them as parallel as possible. Use
maintained, authorized users will enjoy consistently
similar file structures, naming conventions, and
easy access to organizational records.
classifications for both systems, so the names of
Disadvantages. Agencies must invest in an Electronic computer directories and subdirectories will mirror
Document Management System [EDMS] that includes the names of your manual file cabinets, drawers,
a records management application to support both and folders.
operational and recordkeeping requirements. Unless
Advantages. Records can be maintained in a way
all records are in electronic format, you will also
that best suits the existing recordkeeping
have to coordinate filing systems for records in both
environment and technological means of your
paper and electronic formats. To maintain an
electronic system for managing e-mail and other
records, you must adopt standard practices to define Disadvantages. Most of the disadvantages of the
documents, establish directories, and develop other options are inherited. Multiple systems add
naming conventions for files. These standards are extra complexity to implementation and can
critical to access, retrieve, and share electronic complicate records management. Furthermore, an
records effectively. In addition, if you maintain indexing system is required to link the hardcopy and
records with lengthy retention periods solely in electronic materials.
electronic systems, you will need to plan for the
possibility of conversion and migration as hardware Suggestions for better e-mail
and software become obsolete. Technical and management
financial constraints may preclude some
organizations from immediately investing in
◆ Gather staff member input and support to ensure
electronic recordkeeping for e-mail. However, you
compliance with your e-mail management policy.
should consider an electronic solution when you
update and redesign your systems. For more ◆ Integrate your e-mail management policy with
information on EDMSs, see the Electronic Document your overall electronic records management
Management Systems guideline. strategy. Review your policy and determine if you
meet your legal and operational requirements.
Option 3: Manual system ◆ Determine ways to encourage staff member
You can print your e-mail records and file the paper compliance so that policy is widely used and
copies in a manual system. accepted, but causes minimal disruption to the
Advantages. This method is easy to implement daily operation.
especially if you already have a well-designed filing ◆ Determine the best way to train staff members.
system. It is also an effective way to integrate Decide how accountable staff members should be
records that are created and received in both paper for compliance.
and electronic form. MORE ➔
South Carolina Department of Archives & History
Disadvantages. You lose the ability to easily search www.state.sc.us/scdah/erg/erg.htm
for, retrieve, or retransmit messages electronically if March 2005
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you print and then delete them. You may also lose Page 7
Records Management National Electronic Commerce Coordinating
◆ Decide which e-mail messages are official records. Committee. Managing E-Mail. December 2002.
◆ Consider what elements of an e-mail record are www.ec3.org/Downloads/2002/managing_email.pdf
needed for a complete understanding of the This guide tackles the perennial problem of e-mail
transaction. management in a practical manner, offering model
◆ Determine the appropriate organization for long- policies for use and retention, as well as a model
term storage and access of e-mail records (e.g., user manual. While the policies acknowledge that
project, department, function) and establish the e-mail is a record that should be managed on the
appropriate records series and records retention basis of its content, the underlying assumption is
schedules. that most e-mail has only transient value, and
◆ Chose a storage medium to retrieve and dispose three retention periods (immediate destruction,
of e-mail. limited retention, and archival retention) are
proposed. A guide to implementing the models is
◆ Decide how your e-mail retention strategy will
coordinate with other records management
procedures and systems (e.g., store all project- Wallace, D.A. Recordkeeping and Electronic Mail
related e-mail with the other project Policy: The State of Thought and the State of the
documentation). Determine how records in other Practice. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the
formats will be indexed. Society of American Archivists, September 3, 1998,
◆ Determine the type and amount of documentation Orlando, FL. Arlington, VA: Barry Associates;
needed for the process. 1998:1-23.
Annotated List of Resources This paper summarizes the issues surrounding
Primary Resources e-mail policies and records management strategies.
Ginn, M.L. Guideline for Managing E-mail. Prairie The paper describes e-mail records management
Village, KS: ARMA International, 2000. policy elements and discusses the tasks and key
concerns associated with the development of an
Topics covered in this overview of e-mail e-mail records management policy.
management include organizational issues (e.g.,
legal, operational, governmental), creation and Additional Resources
use of e-mail, and management of e-mail as a
record (including filing, classification, backup, and Utah State Archives and Records Services: Electronic
disaster recovery). Records
South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Visit this web site for links to the e-mail policies of
Trustworthy Information Systems Handbook. Version a number of states in the United States, as well as
1, July 2004. links to additional web resources for records
This handbook provides an overview for all
stakeholders involved in government electronic Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives.
records management. Topics center around Guidelines for Managing E-mail in Kentucky
ensuring accountability to elected officials and Government
citizens by developing systems that create reliable www.kdla.ky.gov/recmanagement/EmailGuidelines.pdf
and authentic information and records. The Detailed guideline on the proper management of
handbook outlines the characteristics that define e-mail for government entities in Kentucky.
trustworthy information, offers a methodology for Includes decision trees for determining e-mail
ensuring trustworthiness, and provides a series of retention and responsibility.
worksheets and tools for evaluating and refining
system design and documentation.
South Carolina Department of Archives & History
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