NY Governor is busy deleting thousands of emails

I find myself wondering if New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has a time machine hidden somewhere in the basement of the executive mansion. If so, he might have been looking a few months ahead one day last year and taking a peek at Hillary’s press conference yesterday. It seems that he was breaking new ground on the mass deletion of government emails long before Ms. Clinton came upon the idea. This report from Capital New York is actually a couple of weeks old.

The Cuomo administration has now fully implemented a policy of automatically deleting emails of rank-and-file state workers that are more than three months old, resulting in an effective purge of thousands of messages in recent days.

According to memos obtained by Capital, mass deletions began Monday at several state agencies after officials finished consolidating 27 separate email platforms to a single, cloud-based system called Office 365. It lets I.T. administrators purge any older messages, and can be set up to do so each day.

The 90-day deletion policy was first adopted in June of 2013, but its enforcement to date has been haphazard at best, employees and officials say. News of its implementation has drawn fresh concern from good government groups in both New York and elsewhere, who say automatically deleting emails is unnecessary and could stymie access to public information.

You may find yourself wondering what possible public service toward the greater good could come from automatically deleting all of the correspondence from government workers after only 90 days. That’s a great question, and one which the administration has obviously struggled to answer. So far, the only response from state Chief Information Officer Maggie Miller has been rather… unconventional at best.

“The consolidation of our email systems is revolutionizing how we, as a State, communicate and collaborate with each other. Before this email system consolidation we, as partner agencies, could not readily find each other’s contact information. Now we can easily communicate, collaborate, plan, schedule conference calls and meetings and manage our online correspondence consistently and effectively,” Miller wrote. “This is a significant accomplishment and I want to thank everyone for their hard work in making government work better.”

Wait… so you were having trouble finding the contact information for the other people in your own state government? Were we previously relying on a system of monkeys yanking cards out of a Rolodex and tying them to the legs of pigeons? That one statement in and of itself borders on being insane. But even if – and it’s a big “if” – there was some sort of electronic organizational issue with your address books, how was the storage of previously sent and received emails impeding your ability to find each other online?

Well, perhaps it’s just in issue of storage space. They did go with a Microsoft solution after all, so there was probably some sort of data cap on their storage capacity, right?

New York’s contract with Microsoft, which developed Office 365, allows for 50 gigabytes of e-mail storage per employee. Reinvent Albany estimated this would be enough to handle up to 30 years worth of messages.

So now that they’ve purged tens of thousands of emails, the ongoing process will establish a standard where all future emails will be discarded after 90 days unless the employee proactively takes the step of flagging the message for retention. It’s described by the department as a “burden” which falls upon the worker and they are provided with guidance as to how they should determine which emails are worth saving.

That sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? The individual employee is left in charge of determining which bits of correspondence should be available for public review. It’s almost as if they all work for the State Department.

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