NYT: Federal Files Blip Into Oblivion

September 13, 2008 by
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This is a pretty good popular-press overview of the problems of digital preservation of government information and some of the steps being taken to address the problems.

Sample of the problems:

The Achilles’ heel of record-keeping is people.

In an effort to save money, federal agencies are publishing fewer reports on paper and posting more on the Web.

The Web site of the Environmental Protection Agency lists more than 50 “broken links” that once connected readers to documents on depletion of the ozone layer of the atmosphere.

At least 20 documents have been removed from the Web site of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. They include a draft report highly critical of the civil rights policies of the Bush administration.

93 percent of [top officials surveyed at NASA] were violating federal requirements for preserving e-mail correspondence.

“Most Web records do not warrant permanent retention,” because they do not have “long-term historical value,” the [National] Archives said.

Alarmed at the possible loss of White House e-mail messages, the House passed a bill in July that would require agencies to preserve more electronic records. … Republican opponents said the requirements would be onerous and costly. Mr. Bush has threatened to veto the bill, saying it could “interfere with a president’s ability to carry out his or her constitutional and statutory responsibilities.”

See also: Citizens in the Dark? Government Information in the Digital Age.

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