For governments, complying with public records requests and eDiscovery regulations in recent years has transcended beyond providing traditional documentation like email records. The rise of social media has created a need for governments to also keep track of data such as Twitter and Facebook posts.

Many city governments archive internal and external emails using specialized archiving platforms. In May 2009, Tipp City, Ohio, deployed ArcMail Defender as its email archiving platform. Two months ago, the city began testing a new add-on feature called ArcMail Social – an extension of the existing platform that also archives social media data and stores it alongside archived emails.

Ohio’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws, better known as the “Sunshine Laws,” give Ohioans access to government meetings and records, according to the official website of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Doug Arnold, the city’s IT supervisor, explained that to his knowledge, no public records requests have been made for city emails or social media data. But Tipp City wanted to take a proactive approach to archiving in case the information is requested.

“We only use Facebook and Twitter right now,” Arnold said. “So it automatically catches all that stuff that is posted on our social media pages.”

In order to retrieve data, a city employee can perform a search using key information such as dates and keywords. The more information provided in the search, the easier it is to retrieve the data.

If a public records request is made, retrieved data can be sent to the requester electronically. According to Arnold, city employees can also retrieve the information for internal purposes.

Social media posts that are deleted from the city’s official Facebook and Twitter pages are also captured through the social platform – not just posts that remain visible. The city would therefore be able to provide even deleted information in response to a public inquiry.

But although social media data is archived in Tipp City, Arnold said city employees are not allowed to use Facebook and Twitter during work hours, except for a select few who have administrative privileges to post city-related information as part of their job duties. Employees have to use personal time to post comments and tweets on the city’s official social media sites.

When the city only archived email, a single ArcMail appliance was sufficient to capture the data. Once Tipp City deployed ArcMail Social, the city had to upgrade and have existing archives copied over to the new appliance.

According to Rory Welch, ArcMail’s CEO, the social add-on feature cannot be purchased by itself. Organizations must have the email archiving platform for the add-on feature to feed into. Pricing for up-front implementation of the social platform ranges from $4,500 to $17,500, depending on how much data storage is needed.  

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Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.