E-Mail, Voice Mail, and Instant Messaging: A Legal Perspective: An Organization That Uses Messaging Faces a Legal Landscape That Urges, If Not Demands, a Rational Policy for Managing Messaging Data

By Montana, John C. | Information Management, January-February 2004 | Go to article overview

E-Mail, Voice Mail, and Instant Messaging: A Legal Perspective: An Organization That Uses Messaging Faces a Legal Landscape That Urges, If Not Demands, a Rational Policy for Managing Messaging Data


Montana, John C., Information Management


At the Core

This article

* discusses e-mail voice mail and instant messaging as records from a legal perspective

* provides examples of messaging restrictions and guidelines in the United States and worldwide

* examines considerations for policies for managing messaging data

Since the early 1990s, e-mail has become ubiquitous worldwide, Many businesses are dependent on it. and a significant percentage of all private individuals in the developed world are equally dependent on it as a means--often a primary means--of communication with others, More recently, instant messaging (IM) has achieved a similar status. In many environments business and personal, it is an important communication tool. Lurking on the sidelines is still another widely used tool, voice messaging.

These tools pose formidable challenges in many respects. From a business and management perspective, their utility--often very high--is counterbalanced by their unstructured, inherently difficult-to-manage nature and the sheer volume of data that is transmitted and accumulated using them. From a legal perspective, their rapid acceptance, combined with the equally rapid changes in the technologies of which they are a part, makes it difficult for the often slow moving legal world to keep pace with them.

This confluence of factors poses several issues for the organization that uses these technologies extensively:

* Storage of large volumes of e-mail, voice mail, and IM imposes significant costs on an organization in terms of infrastructure and equipment, manpower, and other resources.

* The difficulties of managing millions--or even billions of informal data objects, created with little or no attention to formal structuring or indexing, make systematic management and recovery of them challenging and expensive.

* The e-mail so stored is subject to legal process, requiring searches that may prove difficult and expensive.

From a legal perspective, another group of issues arises:

* Are data objects created using these technologies "records"?

* If so, must they he formally managed?

* What retention period is appropriate for them?

* Are all these technologies the same legally, or do they fall into different classes?

These business and legal issues collectively pose a very formidable conundrum for any business or other large organization.

What Exactly Are E-mail, Voice Mail, and IM Legally?

From a management perspective, e-mail, voice mail, and IM (hereafter collectively called "messaging") as "non records" or legal non-entities would be the most convenient situation. An organization would therefore be free to manage or not manage them as it saw fit. Included in this approach would presumably be the option to establish an arbitrary retention period suited to the convenience and budget of the organization.

A good deal of law impacts messaging. Much of it is indirect in that it does not specifically refer to the technologies themselves. Nonetheless, it does have a direct impact on the way messaging must be managed. The ultimate sweep of that law is perhaps best characterized by an analysis of the United Nations Commission on International Trade (UNICTRAL) Model Law on Electronic Commerce, which serves as the basis for many national laws governing the topic.

According to UNICTRAL, "'Data message' means information generated, sent, received, or stored by electronic, optical, or similar means including, but not limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram, telex, or telecopy."

Consideration of this brief provision reveals that its scope is broad indeed: Messaging of all sorts, regardless of the technology, is a "data message" within the meaning of this law.

UNICTRAL also describes several legal attributes of a data message:

* "Information shall not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely on the grounds that it is in the form of a data message. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

E-Mail, Voice Mail, and Instant Messaging: A Legal Perspective: An Organization That Uses Messaging Faces a Legal Landscape That Urges, If Not Demands, a Rational Policy for Managing Messaging Data
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.