Public Records: Guidelines for Electronic Communications
Appendix to Policy
Office of Records and Information Management
Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (DPA), Minnesota Statutes Chapter 13 governs the handling of all government data.
Public employees should understand that any records they create related to University business—including text messages, voicemail messages, emails, and other electronic communications—are University records. These records therefore (1) should be managed according to University records retention policies, and (2) may be subject to disclosure under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
Public Records: Guidelines for Email
- Emails sent or received by employees related to University business or work product are considered government data and as such, subject to the DPA.
- Ownership of the computer system does not matter. The DPA governs all records relating to University business or work product, whether those records exist on your work computer, your home computer, your smartphone, your University email account, or your private email account.
- Subject to the University’s Records Retention Schedule, keep what you need and delete what you don't. Most email consists of transitory, routine messages that do not need to be maintained. Keep those emails that you need to keep for administrative purposes to document the work of your unit. You must not delete any emails that are related to a data request or to a litigation hold, until the data request is closed or the litigation hold is lifted.
- The subjects of data almost always have the right to see the data. With few exceptions, everyone has the right to the data that Minnesota governmental entities maintain about them. For the University, this includes our students, volunteers, and employees.
- It is important to maintain professionalism in all communications, including emails. Individuals who are the subject of emails, as well as the public in many cases, have access rights to emails upon request.
Examples of email that should be saved through the retention period:
- Email that sets or communicates policy or procedure
- Email that communicates who, what, why, when, where and how a significant transaction or decision was made
- Email that documents or monitors student behavior, consultation or progress
- Email that documents personnel or employment decisions
- Email that documents or monitors personnel behavior, consultation or progress
- Email that documents changes in terms or conditions of contracts, grants, projects, or services
All other email should be deleted once it no longer serves an administrative purpose.
Public Records: Guidelines for Text Messages
- Text messages sent or received by employees related to University business or work product are considered government data and as such, subject to the DPA.
- Ownership of the device does not matter. The DPA governs all records relating to University business or work product, whether those records exist on your smartphone, tablet, or other personal device.
- Use text messaging only for routine or transitory messages that don’t need to be retained by the University. Examples include notices of meetings, directions, and scheduling information, and other routine messages that you would not keep in a file if it were a paper communication.
- Text messages that communicate administrative data related to business or work product should be transferred to a University recordkeeping system. Text messages should not be used to send private data related to students or employees.
- Delete routine text messages as soon as possible. Text messages that need to be kept for a longer period should be transferred to a University recordkeeping system.