What is a record regarding government or agency websites?

By law, any information that an elected official, a government employee, or a state employee handles that correlates with the definitions explained in State Agency Bulletin 4 and in Local Government Bulletin D is a record. In other words, the format that an organization uses to distribute or to collect information does not change the fact that they must ensure that those records are retained, accessible, and readable for their full retention period. Still, identifying what is a record with regard to agency or government websites may seem impossible at times. For that reason, the information provided here will serve as a gateway in deconstructing the management and retention of website records.

According to the National Archives and Records Administration, there are website records that are created to share information with the public and website records that are created to document decisions a government or agency has made about its website (e.g., decisions on content, presentation, data collection of user activity, etc.). Before revealing specific examples of website records, it is also important to mention that duplicates of records are non-records. That is to say, if the record copy is kept elsewhere (not on the government or agency website), then the version posted on the website is a duplicate and does not need to be retained for the full retention period. If the only copy of the record that exists is on the government or agency website, then it must be retained according to the organization’s records retention schedule.

A few examples of website-related records your local government (LG) or state agency (SA) may hold are provided below. Please note that this list is not exhaustive and is meant as an outline to website records and their corresponding retention periods.

1.Agency or Government Publications

2.Publicizing Information

3.Web Mailboxes

Web mailboxes can lead to various types of website-related records, and some relevant record series are provided below.

4.Electronic Forms for Services Provided Online

Examples: Online payments for traffic citations, payments for electric and water bills, web surveys, etc.

Depending on the form and the information it contains, the appropriate retention period may differ. If you are unsure about what record series to assign to information contained on a particular form, contact us.

5.HTML-Encoded Content Pages and Image Maps

6.Meeting Minutes on Website Design Decisions

7.Website Procedures, Policies, and Records of Their Development

8.Website Raw Data

Examples: Tracking user activity, visits, average visit duration, etc.

9.Images, Sound Recordings, and Non-Textual Media

In addition to identifying what constitutes a record on your government or agency website and to assigning an appropriate retention period based on the content of a record, carry out the following steps to manage your organization’s website-related records.

For a more comprehensive review of this topic, see the NARA Guidance on Managing Web Records. Also, keep these other useful resources in mind:

  1. Local Government Bulletin B: Electronic Records Standards and Procedures
  2. State Agency Bulletin 1: Electronic Records Standards and Procedures
  3. State Agency Bulletin 1 – Electronic Records Resources  (appropriate for local governments as well)
  4. Library of Congress’ Preferred Formats

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