In a revelation that had plenty of people scratching their heads, it was revealed that the computer systems at Downing Street are set to automatically delete email records within three months of the message being written. It was found that the system was launched in 2004 a few weeks before the Freedom of Information Act was released in January 2005.
Targeting Unwanted Mail
Although most people say that this timing wasn’t a coincidence, official statements from the Cabinet Office state that the deletion makes it easier to get rid of “nonsense mail”. In other words, they’re erasing everything to eliminate spam. Critics have said this system is rather cumbersome saying they would be better off simply installing a spam filter instead.
An Intention to Save
In order to protect their important messages, it is the civil servant’s responsibility to mark it as “relevant” otherwise it will be permanently deleted within three months. However, when you consider the over-worked staff in the UK government offices, it seems highly likely that much more than spam is being deleted accidentally because of this mandate.
Into the Foggy Past
Another effect is that government aides may have trouble recollecting what happened at previous meetings according to some ex-employees. The written record can be deleted along with all of the alleged incoming spam meaning that staff members may not remember the results of meetings that occurred more than three months into the past as there is simply no way to check.
Again, this seems very extreme especially if the end target is merely spam. While we don’t want to say anything about the aims of the mandate, we would recommend that a filter is a more efficient means of combating unwanted messages rather than the current three month time limit that all civil servants have to live under.