Lost Email, and Dangers of Adverse Judgments

Stories about lost email. This case involves the Governor of North Carolina, his wife, leading officials at North Carolina State University, and corruption.

From an IT perspective, the following points are salient:

  • Although the matter is currently active, the email in question dates back to 2005. This raises the issue of email retention and accessibility. Are you able to retrieve email that is years old? In this case the IT staff was asked to retrieve email that was over four years old.
  • IT does not get input into the matter. Legally, the email was asked for, and it is IT’s job to find it. IT needs to work with its organization's policy committee on such issues as email retention, so there is clear understanding of how long email is to be saved and the cost to retrieve it.
  • Should the email not be found, as is the situation in this case, then the judge can issue an adverse judgment. This basically tells the jury that they can assume the worst because key email has been obviously destroyed to protect those being accused. This is clearly bad for IT, and the entire organization.

Email archiving is a well-accepted solution for keeping email secure and accessible long term. It's becoming more and more common, so the argument that one didn't have the right technology in place is gradually being diminished. If your organization is still not sure if it needs to archive email, it may be worthwhile forwarding this article to upper management.

... Bob Spurzem

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