Homework: Spring 2019, Class 4 (3/26)

Should ephemeral communications be records?

Ephemeral means lasting a very short time or short-lived; and the records management term for this is transitory. So, yes, ephemeral communications can be records. However, this type of record cannot be treated or used as official record as they cannot be retained and/or preserved for legal, business, operational or historical reasons.


Good catch Jocelyn, maybe we need to rephrase this:

Should ephemeral communications be treated as able to produce permanent records?

Put another way, if an officer creates permanent records in email [e.g., under capstone if one is government], should their ephemeral records be treated the same way?

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The VPRA defines a public record as:
“…information that documents a transaction or activity by or with any public officer, agency or
employee of an agency. Regardless of physical form or characteristic, the recorded information is a
public record if it is produced, collected, received or retained in pursuance of law or in connection
with the transaction of public business. The medium upon which such information is recorded has no
bearing on the determination of whether the recording is a public record.” Code of Virginia §

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Keep in mind the vast difference between government and business, not mention how ‘ephemeral’ is meant. Example in one dictionary, ‘fashions are ephemeral’. There you go.

Communication technologies can set no , short or long storage periods. Most companies set no to very short when it comes to instant messaging. So then, if I have a 24 hr store of a message, is that considered a record? Sure, why not? A plaintiff argues in court that a system should be included in the search for certain relevant terms. The argument never includes how long a system retains it. That is up to the defendant to argue and state safe harbor, non-relevancy, fishing expedition, etc. Then the judge makes a decision. Yes, a judge could decide you need to test that 24 hour store with relevant terms.

You need evidence of business as required by law and many are flexible on how your achieve it. That does not mean anything else is not a record. But records have a value from very high to very low and need to be managed as such. No one is going to use IM to create a contract when closing the chat evaporates the terms.


In agreement with Cinman, Randy Moeller, RMU. There are instances where ephemeral documents are needed/required for legal and even business continuity along with other documents. Therefore it depends on content.


I feel as though I am in agreement with a few others. There are situations where ephemeral documents are needed and or required for legal and/ or business continuity along with other documents. Therefore it depends on content. I also feel it could depend on the type of business. Where I am at, if it is needed it is printed and added to which ever situation it is being addressed with . I look forward to the next class.


I agree with the previous responses. It depends on record content, rather than format when determining whether or not to classify something as a record. Nevertheless, it is increasingly difficult to capture everything. We do not currently preserve social media posts as records. Perhaps they do not document transactions of the organization, but they may serve at least a historical purpose and therefore should be preserved. Should we decide to save social media posts, etc., it would appear to be a time consuming venture.

However, we do keep some items that are considered transitory and we classify them as records. They may have a retention of up to 6 years and then be purged in the 7th year. E.g. publications, flyers, drafts.

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I agree with my peers. Emerging technologies are here to stay. We need to balance, as much as possible, the advantage of using them, versus the risk. User education, information governance policies can help our case.


In Wisconsin our General Records Schedules for retention for government entities defines transitory correspondence and other related records of short term interest as having no documentary or evidentiary value. They do not set policy, establish guidelines or procedures, document a transaction or become a receipt. So yes they are records, but not having a longer term value. The retention is simple - until no longer needed. If a post or tweet asked the question “When is your annual event?” Once you have answered the question, there is little use of the question, except as used in other data collection such as how many inquiries were received or how many inquires were handled by a given unit for statistical purposes. This ephemeral question would not need to be retained further.


I agree with my peers.

Social media content and whether it constitutes a record has been a recent discussion at my company since the communications team is using it more and more.

At the end of the day, I believe it all depends on the content. At my agency, I explain to the employees that retention and whether or not something is a record is based on what the content is and whether or not it has value. The delivery method of the content or the platform it was created on doesn’t change that value.

Total agreement with the above statements…

The information contained within the communication will determine if it is a record or not.

So yes, ephemeral communications should be considered records.

Definition of a record is any information being object created or received in the normal course of doing business. Is the ephemeral record-able/can it be captured? Was it created or received in the normal course of doing business? If yes, then it is a record. The question then becomes how long do we need to retain it? When do the values (legal, fiscal, operational, historical/research) become zero?

I agree that it depends on the content

I Agree with others depending on the content of the documents they may be needed.

I agree with others on the fact that it depends on the content and then how long is it kept? and for what purpose, if it doesn’t have any relevance why keep it?

Ephemeral communications are records as long as there is a policy that specifies how long they should be retained.

I agree with everyone else, it depends on the content, but how to capture it is another matter.

I completed a little research and found a few things and one clearly the definition: Ephemeral Communications: Communications that are deleted or otherwise not made available after a certain, relatively-short time period; the Internet messaging application Snapchat provides a platform for such interactions.

Class 4: Should ephemeral communications be records?

I read through what I believe to be one of the best posts that is detailed and not overly long. Lenan (2017) proposed the following risk based approach “Evaluation of a company’s risk management strategy in general, and the risk-reward analysis for whether to deploy ephemeral communications tools in particular, should take place at the highest levels, with guidance from internal information technology teams, information security experts and counsel. Every company exists within a varied information security, litigation, and regulatory ecosystem and there is no magic formula for managing risk and handling the large amounts of ESI a company generates”. So, the short answer is it depends on your industry and risk appetite.

Pradhan, S. (2017, August 02). Key Considerations for Adopting Ephemeral Communications Tools. Retrieved April 2, 2019, from http://mintzedge.com/blog/key-considerations-for-adopting-ephemeral-communications-tools

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I agree with everyone the answer is in the content. Does anyone have a way to capture this to align with the records schedule pertaining to the record?