Albany, NY – Assemblyman Dinowitz (D-Bronx) has introduced legislation to require state agencies and members of the executive staff to retain emails for a minimum of 7 years, which would bring New York State in line with federal guidelines for email retention. The bill, A.6076, would also require state employees to use their official email accounts for agency-related business. The legislation has the strong support of advocacy groups including the New York Civil Liberties Union, Reinvent Albany, NYPIRG, Citizens Union, and Common Cause/NY.
Currently, the State of New York has a policy of deleting all state employee emails after 90 days, unless the emails are specifically marked for saving. Automatically destroying the emails of state employees after 90 days is highly likely to result in the destruction of emails that are considered public records under New York’s Freedom of Information Law. Destroying email records also weakens other public accountability laws like the False Claims Act.
Assemblyman Dinowitz said, “New York State’s current practice of deleting email records after three months conflicts with the Freedom of Information Law and undermines public transparency. We need to take action to increase accountability and restore the public’s faith in government. My bill, A.6076, would require all state agencies and executive staff to retain emails for a minimum of seven years, preserving these records for posterity. In addition, my bill would affirm a straightforward premise: that government business should be conducted on official government email accounts. Emails are crucial records in the digital age, and I urge my colleagues to support this much-needed reform.”
“This bill is a sensible way to increase transparency in state government and keep important email records from being destroyed, either accidentally or deliberately. New York should be at least as transparent as the federal government – which means saving all emails for at least seven years,” said Dominic Mauro, Staff Attorney for Reinvent Albany.
“In the 21st Century it makes no sense to have an email retention policy that runs as long as the expiration date on a yogurt container,” said NYPIRG Legislative Counsel Russ Haven. “Modern technology makes it cheap and easy to set the default at ‘save’ for emails, because we know that what seems trivial today, may turn out to be extremely important down the road.”
“Citizens Union supports Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz’s bill to require all state agencies and executive staff to retain state emails for a minimum of seven years. Given the vast amount of the people’s business that is communicated between officials electronically, we must have a higher standard of retention than the current unacceptable 90 days. This bill importantly matches the current federal standard, which will ensure public access to these emails should they be requested via FOIL,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union.
“A.6076 is a forthright solution to a problem which we see with government email communications at all levels of government,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. “It would bring New York State’s email retention policy into line with national standards and help insure that our state’s practices are in line with its stated goal of fostering transparency. Common Cause/NY looks forward to working with Assembly Member Dinowitz to see it enacted into law.”
The United States National Archives recently conducted a three year analysis of email retention issues and concluded that email should be saved for a minimum of seven years. Beginning in 2015, the federal government is saving all employee emails for a minimum of seven years. Additionally, the Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014 requires federal employees to use agency-assigned emails for government business.
Assemblyman Dinowitz’s bill would increase the accountability of New York State government and ensure that the state meets federal transparency standards for emails.