Managing Records as Evidence and Information

Managing Records as Evidence and Information

Managing Records as Evidence and Information

Managing Records as Evidence and Information

Synopsis

For the past three decades, policies regarding a variety of information issues have emanated from federal agencies, legislative chambers, and corporate boardrooms. Despite the focus on information policy, it is still a relatively new concept and one only now beginning to be studied. The subject area is wider than believed--archives and records policies, information resources management, information technology, telecommunications, international communications, privacy and confidentiality, computer regulation and crime, intellectual property, and information systems and dissemination. This is not a compendium of policies to be used, but rather an exploration in a more detailed fashion of the fundamental principles supporting the setting of records policies.

Excerpt

The concept of “policy” has been used so often and so broadly in the modern Information Age as to become both commonplace and misunderstood. Federal policies seem to be issued weekly. In our global era, international organizations regularly call for and release policies. All organizations seem to desire a policy on every function and activity or, at the least, to be aware of external policies affecting their work. Citizens demand policies protecting them in a vast range of spheres, from privacy to consumer rights to the use of information generated by and for them. Many worry if they might be working unaware of some policy that should be guiding them, or commence a new project by searching for and being aware of relevant policies.

The nature and impact of policies is a prevalent concern but also constitutes a somewhat uncertain business. Not long ago my school hosted a public lecture on information policy and ethics. During the question-and-answer session, one of my students politely but astutely posed a question about the differences between law and policy. Not unexpectedly, the answer was somewhat muddled, not because the speaker didn’t know how to respond but because it is difficult to discern where law ends and policy begins or how policy differs from so many other rules, guidelines, or even common sense. Law and policy are intertwined in complex ways, and because the process and effectiveness of making laws regarding cyberspace are both very complicated and uncertain, it can only be said that laws constitute part of policy and that policy often supports the application of laws. All of this, of course, is then subject to the outcomes of court cases and the development of professional best practices.

Some of this is not new, only speeded up and exacerbated by the accelerating use of computers from classrooms to courtrooms. Historian Michael Kammen identifies the “most worrisome threats to our freedom” as coming “from the

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