E-mail archiving: obligation or freestyle? (part 3)

E-mail archiving: obligation or freestyle?

Part Three: Was Hillary Clinton not elected president because of the email affair?

Everyone rubs their eyes in amazement. Donald Trump was elected and becomes the 45th president of the United States. It was a democratic decision and it must be respected. With Trump, a political greenhorn is moving into the White House, one of the richest men in the USA. So rich, in fact, that he even forgoes his annual presidential salary of $400,000. Much more exciting than the question of why Trump was elected is the question of why Clinton was not elected. There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton is an extremely intelligent woman and has a lot of political experience. Her speech after losing the election at the luxury Peninsula Hotel was brilliant. It was also interesting to see how Bill Clinton acted during the speech (I think the saddest of all was Bill not being able to move into the White House again…).

The decisive factor for the failure was probably the voters’ general distrust of the political establishment, represented by the two Clintons. The Clintons have always bent the truth or simply lied (Bill Clinton: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…”). Hillary Clinton had a good campaign, but many Democratic voters have not forgiven her for the email affair. Donald Trump had even threatened during the election campaign to throw Hillary Clinton in jail over the email affair. Of course, this is just political saber rattling in the campaign because the Clintons were on the guest list at Trump’s wedding….

What was the trigger? Hillary Clinton systematically used the Clinton family’s private email infrastructure for her official business during her tenure as Secretary of State under President Barak Obama. She had not had an official e-mail address during her time as foreign minister. The most important thing right away: Clinton had not violated any applicable law or regulations at that time! The rules in effect at the time did not prohibit the use of a private email address while in office. However, this is not really compatible with the American “Freedom of Information Act” (FOIA). FOIA gives anyone the right to request access to documents from government agencies. Therefore, Hillary Clinton had to hand over her official correspondence to the State Department after the fact; a total of more than 50,000 e-mails. Whether that covers all the official correspondence is beyond anyone’s comprehension. Jason Baron, the former Director of Litigations at NARA (National Archives and Records Administration), has publicly doubted that all the relevant emails were delivered (although even he can only guess what really happened).

This example impressively shows that rules for handling business e-mails are imperative. The e-mail rules of the U.S. Department of State were by no means expedient and this was also criticized by experts on various occasions. There is not a single valid reason why a public official does not need to use an official email address to conduct business.

There must also be clear rules for the use of the company’s own e-mail infrastructure in every company. A particularly big problem is the separation between business and private correspondence. 12 years ago, it was still expedient, and also in terms of convenience for employees, to tolerate private use of the business email address. Today, every employee has at least one private smartphone. This means that there is no longer any reason to use the business e-mail address for private purposes. Corresponding directives must be adapted immediately so that only business e-mails are stored on the company’s own infrastructure. It is also common for e-mails to be moved across the board to a specialized e-mail archive and stored there for 10 years. In many cases, there is no plan as to how the e-mails will be deleted after the 10 years have expired. If there are also a few litigation holds on e-mails, the chaos is perfect. The supposedly simple, mostly technically driven, email archiving solution becomes a boomerang and violates pretty much every principle of data protection (greetings from the new EU General Data Protection Regulation!).

Read the next blog on email archiving: deployment strategies and rules for an email archive.

Daniel Spichty


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