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Government Wrestles with Uploading Social Media Records to Cloud Storage

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Do the hundreds of Facebook updates, profile changes and tweets that go out each day from government agencies need to be archived along with more traditional material?

Social media archiving would seem to be the intersection of two hot topics of the day: cloud computing and President Barack Obama’s Open Government Initiative. Sounds great in theory, but like any cross-agency initiative, recording social media output will likely require a great degree of coordination – and patience.

David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, said record-keeping practices need to change with the times. Some agencies are woefully behind, with some email archives not being kept in an electronic system, according to the National Archives and Records Administration’s 2009 Records Management Self-Assessment.

“Agencies cannot ignore their record-keeping responsibilities because content appears in a system or platform that is not easily captured by their current recordkeeping practices,” Ferriero said in a Nov. 2 blog post.

Furthermore, the government is already making a large footprint: A report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government said U.S. federal agencies support 205 Twitter feeds, 165 social media accounts, and 108 blogs, among others.

The report advocates creating the position of chief records officer for the federal government to deal with privacy, security, and logistics that will be involved with harmonizing social media records agencywide.

This cloud-based technology needs to walk a fine line between secure and effective, according to Alion CIO Mark Ives.

“We don’t want security functions to hinder business operations,” he said. “What we have to do, as much as possible, is fold security operations into day-to-day operations in the enterprise.”

Competition is tough for contractors still wanting to get into the cloud market, and the government according to Stacy Schwartz, VP of the AT&T Government Solutions sales center.

“The federal government, in a lot of respects, has led certain aspects of innovation within the market,” she said. “From our perspective, we were very pleased to see that the government announced a new online storefront for cloud computing services – Apps.gov.”

While recording social media output remains a challenge, NARA is having a much easier time doing using social media to spread knowledge about already-existing records.

Ferriero told Federal News Radio the agency has set up a wiki for information people find in archives, which are then verified by NARA.

“Visually, to be able to see our records used in various ways by the user community in ways that we never expected have been exciting kinds of opportunities for the staff,” he said.

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