Managing Electronic Mail (E-Mail) Brochure On the Record with the Department of the Interior Records Management Program ELECTRONIC MAIL... E-MAIL...RECORDS...NON-RECORDS... PRESERVE... DESTROY...WHAT DO YOU DO? All employees (and contractors) are required by law to make and preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency. In addition, the records must be properly stored and preserved, available for retrieval, and subject to appropriate approved disposition schedules. The Federal Records Act applies to e-mail records just as it does to records that are created using other media. If you create or receive e-mail messages during the course of your daily work, you are responsible for ensuring that you properly manage them. The Department’s current e-mail policy requires that all e-mails or attachments that meet the definition of a Federal record be added to the organization’s files by printing them (including the essential transmission data) and filing them with related paper records. Remember–electronic mail is intended for official and authorized purposes. You must exercise common sense, good judgment, and propriety when using this government resource. E-mail messages are not private and can be used in court as evidence. WHAT IS AN E-MAIL MESSAGE? An e-mail message consists of any document created, transmitted, or received on an e-mail system, including message text and any attachments, such as word-processed documents, spread-sheets, and graphics that may be transmitted with a message, or with an envelope containing no message. WHEN ARE E-MAIL DOCUMENTS RECORDS? E-mail documents are records when they: Are created or received in the transaction of agency business Are appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function and activities, or Are valuable because of the information they contain WHEN ARE E-MAIL DOCUMENTS NOT RECORDS? E-mail documents are non-records when they: Provide no evidence of agency functions and activities Lack information of value Duplicate information already documented in existing records WHAT ARE MY RESPONSIBILITIES? You are responsible for properly managing the creation, retention, and disposition of records that you send or receive on an e-mail system. You must: As soon as possible after you receive or send a message—and any attachments—determine whether it is a record or a non-record While DOI archives all e-mails that are sent and received, it is still your responsibility to manage and organize your e-mails in the event you receive a discovery, litigation, and/or Congressional/FOIA request. You will need to retrieve all relevant e-mail. Delete the e-mail version of the record unless you need it for reference purpose Delete messages or attachments that are not records as soon as they have served their purpose WHAT ABOUT NON-RECORDS... WHAT DO I DO WITH THEM? You should promptly delete non-record messages. If non-record copies are useful for reference or convenience, you should copy the information to the hard drive of your computer or to a diskette. Examples of non-records include: Copies of memoranda or text sent for information rather than action Instruction memoranda or information bulletins where the recipient is not the action office Messages that have only temporary value such as a message that a meeting time has changed WHAT ABOUT COPIES OF DOCUMENTS ON MY LAPTOP COMPUTER... ARE THEY RECORDS? All documents (e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, etc.) on a laptop that meet the definition of a record are considered to be separate documents from similar documents maintained on the computer in your office until they are synchronized and identical. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE STATUS OF MY E-MAIL MESSAGE AFTER I PRINT IT AND FILE IT IN THE OFFICES FILING SYSTEM? A message that is a record becomes a non-record after the hard copy has been printed and properly retained. CAN I USE E-MAIL ON MY GOVERNMENT COMPUTER TO SEND PERSONAL MESSAGES? Employees on non-duty time are allowed to use Government e-mail systems and computers for limited personal use with the following restrictions. For more detailed guidance refer to AS-PMB Memorandum, June 14, 2000, Policies on Limited Use of Government Equipment and Telephone Use. The costs to the Government for personal use of e-mail must be negligible. Personal use of e-mail must not cause congestion, delay or disruption of service to any Government system or equipment (e.g., transmitting large attachments). Employees may use e-mail for point-to-point electronic transmissions or personal transmissions not to exceed five (5) addressees per e-mail both as employee-generated personal messages and in response to personal messages received. Broadcast transmissions, mass mailings or bulletin boards for personal use are prohibited unless specifically authorized by the Bureau or Office System Administrator. Employees using e-mail for personal purposes must not represent themselves as acting in an official capacity. Employees are reminded to use caution when giving out their Government e-mail address for personal purposes, particularly when "registering" at various Internet sites. Registering may result in the employee receiving unwanted e-mail which in turn could strain the network resources with increased e-mail traffic. ANYTHING ELSE I NEED TO KNOW? Yes, very frequently e-mail records are involved in a discovery process during litigation, and/or the subject of Congressional requests and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. If you have e-mail records that are involved in active cases as just described, those records must be preserved. The medium (electronic or paper copy) for preserving e-mail records depends on various factors. In such instances, specific guidance regarding the preservation of relevant records is generally provided either by the Office of Congressional Affairs, the FOIA Officer, or the Office of the Solicitor. AN E-MAIL MESSAGE IS A RECORD IF: It contains unique, valuable information developed in preparing position papers, reports, studies, etc. It reflects significant actions taken in the course of conducting business It conveys unique, valuable information about government programs, policies, decisions, or essential actions It conveys statements of policy or the rationale for decisions or actions It documents oral exchanges (in person or by telephone), during which policy is formulated or other government activities are planned or transacted It adds to the proper understanding of the formulation or execution of government actions or of government operations and responsibilities It documents important meetings It facilitates action by government officials and their successors in office It makes possible a proper scrutiny by the Congress or other duly authorized agencies of the Government It protects the financial, legal, and other rights of the Government and of the persons directly affected by the Government’s actions MANAGE YOUR E-MAIL: Determine if the e-mail message/attachments meet the legal definition of a record Delete the e-mail version of the record unless you need it for reference purposes Delete messages or attachments that are not records as soon as they have served their purpose If you’re unsure about the correct status of a message, always treat it as a record first.