Why are Government emails being deleted?

Jun 2013

Why are Government emails being deleted?

Posted by Zaid Rasid in Cloud Backup

E-mail DeletedIn and around our government offices recently, there have been two high profile stories in which officials have allegedly deleted emails.  Our initial reaction here at Asigra, has been one of slight bewilderment as to how such data can go missing. Being experts in the data backup and recovery field for more than 25 years, we are unclear as to how the current backup and recovery systems in place at our provincial and local governments inadequately protect such sensitive and critical information. Our own EVP Eran Farajun saw the recent story and questioned what security measures were in place at our government offices.

Thestar.com reports that Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian, details in a scathing report top Liberal staffers illegally deleting emails related to the controversial closing of two gas plants in 2011. Under the Archives and Recordkeeping Act, it is illegal for government officials to delete emails and these actions undermine freedom-of-information legislation.

In particular, numerous officials have argued in their own defense that their preference for an ‘empty inbox’ or their inability to understand how to archive emails, were primary reasons that data went missing. In the same Star article, it’s also mentioned that Cavoukian struggles to believe that it is easy to recover data from almost three years ago. She says it’s a ‘myth’.

In a similar situation in Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford was accused over allegations that emails and phone records were deleted by Ford staffers amid recent controversies in city hall.

Lack of Transparency or Competency?

In some of these cases, there have been some serious data breaches and lack of protocol. And from a public perspective, we have to begin asking questions about the backup and recovery systems in place at any level of government. Ultimately, the burden of responsibility belongs to the Chief’s of technology at the provincial and local level and a level of impartiality is required to ensure data is protected in the public interest. So why is it that at the provincial level, an email from only three years ago, can’t be recovered?

Toronto Company Provides Solution

In response to the Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian’s statement about the difficulties of recovering data, it’s hard for us to fathom how a comprehensive backup and recovery system could not recover such data. In fact, with the over hundreds of thousands of implementations that Asigra’s technology enables, and some even in its hometown of Toronto, we go through the process almost every day of ensuring that all data, including emails and files are backed up regularly and recovered seamlessly and securely.

A Simple Solution toward Government Transparency

We invite the Privacy commissioner of Ontario and even the local government of Toronto to consider leveraging technology from a local provider such as Asigra (who employ Ontarians) and have a world class offering. It goes without saying that a backup and recovery solution solves the problem of “accidentally deleted” data. Since our solution backs up and encrypts all data, including emails, and since we provide a secure encryption key to only authorized owners of that key, it means that ANY data or any email can be recovered at any time. This is how our government data should be maintained and from the evidence from these stories, this isn’t the case. Which in turn brings up some serious concerns for the public about government transparency and data security.

Spice IT Email Post

Asigra - why are you assuming

Asigra - why are you assuming that the data has gone missing? Surely you understand that most users think that simply highlighting a message and hitting delete is good enough? And surely you understand that this constitutes an action of 'deleting emails' that is good enough for a front page? In spite of the fact that most likely the user hasn't emptied their Deleted Items folder or that the server hasn't scavenged the deleted items for space.
Simply asking the Help Desk how to empty the deleted items folder could constitute asking for help to 'permanently delete' email.

But perhaps instead of opining about policies and procedures you admit you know little about why not offer us a practical example - the government turned over 40,000 documents about a single project. It seems reasonable to extrapolate that most other projects receive similar amounts of mail and makes it believable to think that the Ontario government puts 40,000 pieces of email through its servers every day.

So show us how quickly Asigra can search for a message based on content, find it out of a message store that grows at a rate of 40,000 messages per day and could have been sent on any of 780 days and restore it to a different location than it originally came from.

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