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Data / Federal government

The federal government’s move to digitize records brings a focus on managing and securing data

At the DC Live ’19 Federal Records Conference, attendees discussed efforts to modernize how information is stored across U.S. agencies.

The National Archives. Photo by Flicker user NCinDC

Information that was once kept in paper format and stored in folders and boxes is now being uploaded and integrated into the digital space. While this simplifies organizing and storing data, it also creates potential risks of private data being breached and leaked into the public sphere.

To discuss all things pertaining to data management and cyber hygiene, participants attended DC Live ’19 Federal Records Conference last month at the the National Press Club.

The theme of the April 24 event was centered around the federal government’s efforts to modernize record keeping by moving all paper-based records to an electronic format. This theme closely coincides with the National Archives and Records Administrations initiative M-12-18, which requires all federal agencies to eliminate paper records and have everything digitized by the end of the year.

“All organizations have to move their records into an electronic database, and that deadline is coming up at the end of the year,” said Niamh Bennett, Marketing Manager at Active Navigation. “That’s what a lot of records managers are interested in is new technologies to meet these compliance deadline set by NARA.”

Speakers discussed topics such as keeping government data in a cloud-based system, what makes technical systems potentially insecure, data minimization, and how to fully move from paper based data to an electronic format.

Active Navigation, a software company that specializes in file analysis software, co-sponsored the event. The conference was open to government personnel.

“This in a way is about how cybersecurity and data privacy issues are making their way into the federal government, in particular with records managers,” said Dean Gonsowski, chief revenue officer at Reston, Va.-based Active Navigation. “Records managers historically have thought about retaining and keeping certain classes of information for archival and other purposes, and what’s happening now is that because of data breaches and privacy regimes, they are having to take a different approach to how they maintain their information.”

According to Gonsowski, issues that have been plaguing the private sector are starting to affect the federal government.

“You are seeing the federal government now address a lot of the issues that you see in the private sector in terms of protecting data,“ said Gonsowksi. “The rules are starting to change regarding records management tools from, ‘We have mounds of information and we will figure out what to do with it later,’ to, ‘We need to think about how to minimize what we retain because there is just as much risk in the data as there is value.'”

There are plans to hold another conference next year.

“Part of the goal is bringing the community together, and there really is a nice opportunity to collaborate because a lot of these governmental agencies want to know what their peers are doing,” said Gonsowski. “It’s a little bit more collegial than in the enterprise world, one agency does want to know what another agency is doing because they are governed by a body like NARA, so everyone is trying to line up to make sure that they are all on one page.”


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