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Managing Chat and Text Records

Chat platforms such as MS Teams or Zoom are tools that facilitate group collaboration. It is so simple to communicate with others in chat platforms, that it’s easy to overlook the type of information being shared, whether others can see it, how it’s being stored, and whether another tool may be more appropriate for transmitting the message. 

When using chat tools, always consider the following:

  1. The sensitivity of information you are transmitting.
  2. Will the chat create a university record? Consider using an alternative communication tool such as e-mail.
  3. Be professional and mindful of the content of your chats as they can be called upon if the university receives an FOI.

This guide addresses the following elements:

  1. Recordkeeping Roles and Responsibilities
  2. Managing Information in MS Teams
  3. Access and Privacy
  4. Managing Information in Text Messages

Record keeping best practices for chat platforms

  • MS Teams is a communication and collaboration tool; one-to-one chat and one-to-many chat does not have the necessary functionality and controls for an appropriate recordkeeping system.
    • A recordkeeping system organizes records according to a file plan, provides shared access to those who need it, and applies retention and disposition rules.
    • Files shared via chat sit in the “Files” section of the chat. MS Teams is not an appropriate location to store authentic university records. Be mindful of moving records to a more permanent location such as the network drive.
  • Chat such as MS Teams or Zoom is an instant messaging tool best used for impromptu conversations between two or more people; think of it as a virtual hallway conversation!
  • Highly confidential information should not be communicated via chat; use another appropriate means to communicate the information such as phone or encrypted e-mail.
  • Keep conversations ad hoc – if the discussion starts getting into business decisions, consider moving to e-mail, in person conversation or create a formal record. Business decisions should not be completed in one-to-one chat/one-to-many chat.
  • Remember, chats are transitory in nature; treat chat platforms as transitory communication tools rather than decision making tools.

Managing information in MS Teams

  • File critical information from MS Teams to a recordkeeping system by downloading the information to a temporary location and uploading to your departments appropriate recordkeeping system.
  • Because MS Teams is not an appropriate recordkeeping system, and critical information is to be filed elsewhere, MS Teams primarily holds transitory information (i.e. information that is not required to meet legal obligations or to sustain administrative or operational functions). Transitory information is eligible for deletion in accordance with UFV's Transitory record schedule when no longer needed.
  • Teams one-to-one and group chat is currently maintained as a persistent chat within MS Teams (i.e. conversation history remains in MSTeams). 

At the time of deployment, chats are retained indefinitely. Future MS Teams implementation may include a defined retention process where inactive Team information, including chat, follows a routine deletion schedule, unless considered relevant to an information search under FIPPA or other legal obligations.

Access and privacy

Information in MS Teams, like all UFV records, is subject to FIPPA. When using MS Teams, ensure that you:

  • Limit the sharing of sensitive or confidential information (e.g. personal information), as you would with any communication tool (consider that Team membership may change over time and could potentially include external contractors).
  • Are prepared to respond to information access requests under FIPPA or other legal obligations. Following UFV's record naming conventions and storing records on the department drive facilitates strong record keeping practices and ensures records can be retrieved efficiently. 

As MS Teams and Office 365 implementation evolves at UFV, this guidance will be updated.

Managing text messages as university records

The brevity of text messages makes them a poor medium for business communication. Avoid texting about business decisions. Ideally, text messaging in the workplace should be kept to a minimum, used to get someone’s attention, or to communicate simple informational messages such as meeting times. Texts have potential to become university records and some of what is communicated using text messaging may need to be preserved and produced as evidence of decisions or actions. 

Reminder: a university record is determined by its content, not it's medium! Treat text messaging and chat as transitory communication when possible.

This guideline was adapted from MS Teams Records Management Guide produced by BC Government Record Services, Province of British Columbia (2020).

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