Friday, December 21, 2012

How good have government agencies in Australia become at social record keeping?

An interesting study has come across my desk from Rebecca Stoks, who is working on a Master of Information Management at Victoria University in New Zealand.

She sought in the report to answer the following question:
Recordkeeping is essential to the democratic process, but how can governments maintain public records when they are being created outside their realm of control? 
To answer this, earlier in 2012 she conducted a study of government agencies in Australia to discover the extent to which they were capturing public records created on third party social media sites.

She approached agencies at local, state/territory and federal level, receiving 63 responses, about half from state government agencies and about 25% from local and federal.

Of these respondents 54 used social media, with 41 having used it for a year or more. However only 26 had a social media policy in place, with another 23 in the process of developing social media policies.

Of the 26 with a social media policy in place, only 13 of these policies mentioned the recordkeeping implications of using social media.

At the same time, 32 of the 63 respondents had been approached internally for advice on social media recordkeeping. As a result 11 had developed a procedure on social media recordkeeping, while another 19 were in the process of developing a procedure.

Rebecca found that of the 54 respondents using social media, most did not feel confident they were meeting their legal obligations to keep records, only 18 were capturing records.

Of these 18, some captured everything while others only capturing selected records - with most capturing records created and received by their agency as well as basic metadata associated with social media records, however only a few captured social media interactions such as ratings, tags and re-postings.

The agencies capturing social media records mostly used more than one method, with the most popular being taking screenshots, subscribing to syndication feeds or using a third party archiving service.

Only half of those agencies capturing social media records thought their methods were sustainable, with most who felt they were using more automated capture methods such as archiving services and syndication feeds.

Rebecca's study also found that most respondents to the survey had consulted their local public records office about social media recordkeeping and found their advice useful. However, she says,
when asked what gaps existed in the current guidance on social media records, several respondents expressed a desire for practical and sustainable solutions for what to capture and how to capture.
In a review of Public Record Offices in May 2012, Rebecca found that six of the nine Australian Public Record Offices had published guidance, however most had only been first published in the last year and the depth and approach of the guidance varied enormously across jurisdiction, despite the goals being very similar.

To illustrate this, I've included a table from Rebecca's report below

11.3 Common themes in the guidance on Social Media Recordkeeping

Practical and Procedural Advice
Public Record Office
NAA SRNSW QSA TRO TAHO PROV
Consider and mitigate the risks of using a cloud service

Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes
Create policies and procedures for social media that detail recordkeeping requirements
Yes
Yes
Yes

Yes

Conduct a risk assessment of social media records

Yes
Yes
Yes


Identify which records need to be captured and create a strategy for how and when they will be captured
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Collaborate with the business
Yes
Yes


Yes

Make a file note

Yes
Yes



Only capture/retain original records
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Yes
Export data/Take screenshots
Yes
Yes
Yes


Yes
Create a “bridge” to internal systems

Yes

Yes


Use in-house solutions where possible

Yes


Yes

Attach minimum metadata to records


Yes

Yes
Yes
Use automated solutions where possible

Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes
Promote awareness/provide training


Yes

Yes
Yes

If you're interested in more information or a copy of Rebecca's study - which is packed full of more juicy information (90 pages long), email me and I can put you in touch with her.

3 comments:

  1. The findings fit very much with what our research shows, as in that most organisations either aren't aware yet that they need to do something or don't have the right tools. NSW State Records has done an interesting survey on the topic http://futureproof.records.nsw.gov.au/state-records-social-media-and-recordkeeping-survey-results/


    Most agencies that archive either do so manually (good old copy & paste into a word document) or using some kind of syndication or social media backup tool. Looking at the recordskeeping standards, they commonly simply aren't good enough. Usually they all lack:
    - Association of business purpose in the metadata.
    This is a really important as the business purpose of a record defines it's retention & disposal rules. As an example if you are a local council you might have to post information about a local emergency (e.g. a bushfire). That post has a significant longer (potentially 25+ years) archiving period, than a "Merry Christmas to all ..." message. Storing every record for 25+ years is simply not a sustainable practise.
    - Full contextual information especially embedded links, video's etc.
    For example if an agency tweets "Check out this link", just storing the tweet and the link isn't enough as the real context of the message is the content of where the link goes too. Very similar to an attachment to an email. Especially with tweets you have two things to consider. First the short link of a link shortening service isn't permantly pointed to what you linked. It isn't reliable to just follow the link in a few years and hope that website still exists and has the same structure, content etc.
    Secondly without capturing the link content with the message the message isn't complete.

    And there are so many other parts that might need to be stored like your profile data, Facebook tabs, private messages (mostly you only get what you received, but not what you send), ...

    I am happy to answer questions in regards to a "practical and sustainable solution" for this topic. I want to put out the disclaimer, that I am one of the founders of a company developing such a solution, but I am happy to answer questions without an upfront sign up to our service ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bora,

      I’m glad to hear that my findings match your research as it means they are a good representation of the current state of affairs.

      State Records NSW are doing some great work in this area that I cited heavily in my report. My survey was run just a month after theirs so our findings matched very closely.

      I agree with all the issues you listed. Social media is being used to support an increasingly wide variety of government purposes, some of which (as you point out) produce records with a long retention period.

      I am particularly interested in how you capture the context of a record as this is a challenge that is only going to get harder as websites become more complex and users are encouraged not only to consume public sector information but also reuse and reshape it.

      I think the fact that my findings showed that most respondents who were capturing social media records were using more than one method illustrates how the current tools available are not meeting government needs.

      It’s good to know there are developers who understand the complex recordkeeping requirements for such a solution. I will be interested to see what happens in this space in the New Year.

      Regards,
      Rebecca Stoks

      Delete
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