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State of PA Sued Over Email Retention Policy: Does PA Email Policy Violate Due Process?

This week, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sued the State of Pennsylvania over its email policy. At present, the state’s executive branch destroys emails after five days. The Post-Gazette is seeking to get emails preserved for a minimum of two years.

The Complaint Over PA Email Retention Policy

The Post-Gazette attorneys, in their complaint against the state of PA sued over email retention policy, allege that the PA public has a right to see information kept in this emails under the state’s Right-to-Know Law. By destroying emails in the 5-day time period, the state of PA is essentially preventing the public from getting to know this information. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has named as defendants in their complaint the following parties:

  • The Governor’s Office of Administration
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education

PA Email Retention Policy at Present

The policy in question was set by the Office of Administration and affects some 80,000 employees across 47 different state agencies, the Post-Gazette reports.

At present, state of PA employees must make a decision upon receiving an email as to whether the information contained therein constitutes a public record and should be archived or whether it is transitory and does not contain information that would be of interest to the general public. If the email is deemed transitory, it is subject to deletion within 5 days. Deleted emails cannot be recovered by data recovery specialists.

It recently came to light that members of the Education Department were nightly deleting emails in direct disregard for the 5-day law.

In the worst case, an employee could mistakenly mark something as transitory that was in fact of interest to the public. Alternately, an email could be transitory in the moment but gain public interest after the fact if something contained in the email was discovered to be relevant to public matters.

In these two cases, there would be no way to recover the information since the email’s deletion is permanent and irreversible. Since only the email recipient makes the decision as to whether the email is of public interest, there is wide room for interpretation at present. This new lawsuit illustrates the importance of email archiving for record keeping and for free access to information.

The State of PA was purportedly considering an email archiving solution when this matter came to light. Now doing so is only more pressing for them.

Need more information?

Contact us, we can explain the importance of preserving and securing information and show how we can help you to choose the best solution. Government with a looming court case benefits from collecting and archiving emails that could prove critical now or in the future.

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