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Report finds culture of '"triple-delete'" in B.C.

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A culture of "triple deleting" e-mails has infected British Columbia (B.C.) government offices, according to a damning report and investigation by the B.C. privacy commissioner.

A subsequent 70-page report calls for tougher penalties for staff who intentionally try to evade or ignore freedom of information requests, according to CBC News. In the report, former privacy commissioner David Loukidelis calls on the government to "issue a rule prohibiting anyone from triple deleting emails."

He said public service employees who destroy records or help others destroy records in order to evade requests for access to information should be disciplined or fired, as well as face charges under freedom of information (FOI) legislation.

Current B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham asked Loukidelis for help after finding that a transportation ministry employee had intentionally deleted e-mails and records connected to the so-called Highway of Tears deaths and disappearances.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation identified 18 women and girls who went missing along a stretch of Highway 16 since 1969. Denham's report claims staffer George Gretes deleted records and then lied to her office under oath, CBC News reported.

Denham's report, "Access Denied," explains the practice of "triple deleting," in which an e-mail is moved to the computer system's "deleted" folder, erased from the folder itself, and then manually deleted from a 14-day backup system.

Denham also found that Premier Christy Clark's deputy chief of staff, Michele Cadario, was bulk deleting her e-mails on a daily basis. According to Denham's report, Cadario claimed "very few" of the e-mails she sends are non-transitory because she doesn't create government policy or give advice.

According to CBC News, Denham's report revealed confusion around the concept of "transitory" e-mails as opposed to communication that should be kept under legislation requiring the retention of "decision records, instruction and advice, as well as documentation of a policy matter or how a case was managed."

"At all costs, the provincial government should not entertain any notion that all electronic records must, regardless of their value, be retained," Loukidelis said. "The key, therefore, is to find a practical way in which to identify the records that have value and then retain and manage them appropriately in proportion to their present and enduring value."

Loukidelis suggested that the government reconfigure its e-mail system so deleted e-mails can be recovered within 31 days, as opposed to 14 days, CBC News reported. He also recommended that each minister's office should have a dedicated public servant in charge of FOI request processing.

In addition, Loukidelis said political and non-political staff in both ministry offices and the premier's office should be trained on the requirements of information and privacy legislation.

Loukidelis also said he wants employees who willfully destroy records to face consequences, which may require passing legislation similar to what exists in Alberta.

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Title Annotation:GOVERNMENT RECORDS; British Columbia
Publication:Information Management Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2016
Words:474
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