Additional forms of electronic messages – including text messages – will now be included in the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) digital records retention guidance for Federal organizations, according to a recent bulletin posted by the agency.

The new rule expands upon NARA’s 2013 guidance for managing emails, an automated way for Federal agencies to capture digital records that should be permanently preserved.

“This bulletin recognizes that the use of additional types of electronic messaging often now replaces conversations previously occurring over email,” NARA’s Jan. 5 post says. “[It] is an important next step to ensure the proper management of agency electronic communications and also supports the Electronic Message Preservation Act of 2021.”

Under NARA’s 2013 guidance, Federal agencies use a role-based approach for managing electronic records – also known as Capstone.

Under this approach, final disposition is determined by the role or position of the record creator or receiver. Specifically, the post says, records of certain roles or positions may be scheduled as permanent for transfer to NARA.

These roles are usually at the top of an organization. The records of all other roles and positions may be scheduled for disposal as temporary records.

This approach “has been widely adopted by a large percentage of Federal agencies,” the agency wrote. “Therefore, NARA is expanding the role-based approach to include other types of electronic messages beyond email.”

NARA also said that when weighing how to implement the new rules, agencies must consider whether they have an approach for capturing complete electronic messages including emojis, GIFs, images, and video.

The new guidance says electronic messages created or received on personal devices during agency business are likely to be defined as Federal records. Those messages must be forwarded or copied to an official account within 20 days.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.