With a few exceptions, the instant messaging feature on government issued mobile devices should be disabled in order to preserve communication records and respect the access to information law, according to Canada’s information commissioner.

Suzanne Legault
Suzanne Legault

In a special report to Parliament, Suzanne Legault, information commissioner of Canada, said an investigation into the use of mobile devices and instant messaging in 11 federal institutions showed the text messages sent and received using some 98,000 government-issued BlackBerry smart phones were automatically deleted after 30 days.

Legault said the risk of lost information is now greater after the Treasury Board secretariat has proposed a policy that would allow the deletion of instant messages after only three days.

She said this constituted as “real risk that information that should be accessible by Canadians is being immediately deleted or lost.”
“While technology is a powerful tool for innovation, its use must not infringe on the right of Canadians to know that government is doing and to hold it accountable for its decisions,” she said in a statement.

The commissioner recommended a government-wide policy that would, with a few exceptions, disable instant messaging on all government-issued wireless devices.

She also recommended that government officials create records documenting their decisions and that departments set up a system to automatically backup all messages.

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