Company Web Site as a Record

by | May 22, 2014 | Electronic Records, Retention Articles and Information | 0 comments

by Donald S. Skupsky, JD, CRM, FAI

This is one of the modern records retention issues related to electronic records. As with others, such as email, the retention issues are clear but the implementation is difficult.

My opinion is that I do not view a web site as a “record”, even when it has record content. I view the web site, like the email system, as a tool of communication. For example, an organization could create a brochure and send it 100,000 people.

The record for retention purposes could be one brochure, the artwork for that one brochure or the Word documents that comprise the content of that one brochure. Thus, the content of the record is the key, not the means used to distribute it. The web site is the vehicle that distributes the information, like sending out the brochures, but is not the official version of the record, itself.

The content of the web site is like advertising for users who browse and then take some action based on the content. You will be judged against the claims you make.

The content of the web site can be preserved through the html files that were displayed or the source Word documents that were provided to IT for loading onto or conversion for the web site, etc. Thus, if there are variations on content for specific users, then you would keep one set of the entire content. When the content changes, you will also keep those changes.

I do not advocate snapshots of the web site, other than preserving the content that was or might be displayed. But, some organization are concerned that they must keep a snapshot of what a particular user saw at a particular time. This is impossible. If a particular user prints out pages from the web site, you would have the content that matches. If the content changes by user and a particular user claims they “saw” something, without printing it out, neither you nor they can prove what content they actually saw. But, you can show for the selected retention period, what was the “potential” content for a dynamically changing site and the exact content for each page for a static site.

The retention for the web site content would be the same as the retention for the particular records — e.g., advertising, contract, order entry, etc. But, general, informational or even educational material may not have a significant retention and may not have any legal requirements.

Data from any request for information or order entry is moved into your order entry system from the web site. I would expect the data you maintain indicates that it came from the web site or, perhaps, all data in that system comes from the web site. Thus, the order entry forms that are dynamically created on the site and used to convey the data to your electronic system, is just a transmittal form and not needed for retention.

You should audit your system to validate the accuracy of the order entry system, and the implementation of retention for the web site.


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