Saturday, September 13, 2008

In Digital Age, Federal Files Blip Into Oblivion

Here's a scary story for data users from the New York Times by ROBERT PEAR.
Published: September 12, 2008

WASHINGTON Countless federal records are being lost to posterity because
federal employees, grappling with a staggering growth in electronic
records, do not regularly preserve the documents they create on government
computers, send by e-mail and post on the Web.

Federal agencies have rushed to embrace the Internet and new information
technology, but their record-keeping efforts lag far behind. Moreover,
federal investigators have found widespread violations of federal
record-keeping requirements.

Many federal officials admit to a haphazard approach to preserving e-mail
and other electronic records of their work. Indeed, many say they are
unsure what materials they are supposed to preserve.

This confusion is causing alarm among historians, archivists, librarians,
Congressional investigators and watchdog groups that want to trace the
decision-making process and hold federal officials accountable. With the
imminent change in administrations, the concern about lost records has
become more acute.

We expect to see the wholesale disappearance of materials on federal
agency Web sites, said Mary Alice Baish, the Washington representative of
the American Association of Law Libraries, whose members are heavy users
of government records. When new officials take office, they have new
programs and policies, and they want to make a fresh start.

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