Records Management In Action At The USPS
My friend and I ran into each other at the local post office and struck up a conversation. We quickly got into the current events of the recently mailed explosive devices to national political figures. We were just amazed at how fast DHS and USPS identified the person who was sending these explosives through the mail. It got us to thinking about how this information was put together and where records management came into play.
Here’s part of that conversation:
“The United States Postal Service scans and creates digital, bar-coded images that are stored in an electronic repository. These images were instrumental in helping to locate the person who mailed the explosive packages to political figures. What’s remarkable is how efficient the recorded image search must have been in order to quickly identify the origin source of the mail and create a correlation between the two.”
So, What Went Into This Discovery?
“First, from a Records Management perspective, the recorded images must have been captured using Optical Character Recognition Software, thereby enabling search within the image object and support auditability. This means that the associated metadata had to include a Date and Time Stamp, an estimated date range for inventory and retention purposes and some type of indicator of the sending or receiving postal facility for inbound or outbound processing.
It’s likely that this data collection occurs daily and when matched with associated video footage, helped to provide a more exact date and time stamp for the receipt of the suspicious packages into the outgoing postal facility.”
Applying Some Generally Accepted Records Management Principles
“Second, Information Traceability allowed for the postal service employees to locate the appropriate record index to narrow down the search.
This was likely done with a unified set of search parameters with other information repositories for cross-referencing and indexing as well as a possible metadata profile. Thus, the principle of Records Transparency and Availability were exercised.
Finally, the records were available (Principle of Availability) which suggests that the Postal Service has the means to identify, locate and extract recorded metadata and thus pull the actual record when an emergency condition arises. It also gives rise to the possibility of a special indexing parameter that was used to identify and track the sender of the potentially explosive mail packages.
This means the recorded information adhered to the appropriate authorities governing the management and control of postal records during the period of data collection, migration to a storage facility and final assignment of a retention schedule. “
Postal Service Record Keeping
Federal Record Keeping Requirements that govern the United States Postal Service do not allow for collection, management, and storage of information that relates to or can be used to identify individuals, save for Postal Service Operations and law enforcement purposes. (See General Policy overview)
Title 39 of the Code of Federal Regulations 233 provide the legal authorization of the postal inspection service that enabled this information to be captured and shared with law enforcement.
As part of the results of news reporting, we all learned that the postal service routinely scans all parcels that are entered into the mail system and stores that data in dedicated repositories. Those scanned images became official records since they are evidentiary of a common Postal Service Business Process and/or Practice. Federal records may come in any format, including text, images, documents, video or audio file.
Records Management is a growing business function and organizational capability. Strong record keeping services can be a great asset to any organization and in times of critical decision making, a tremendous asset in providing evidence of business functions and activities that can support legal discovery and decisions. As the example above proves, any electronically captured data can become a business record, given the right context and application of records lifecycle principles.
To Wrap Up
Armedia has significant technical expertise in document conversion and digital imaging as well as a growing expertise in electronically recorded information management. We offer our digital conversion services based on a thorough and working knowledge of Imaging Standards as recognized by Association of Image and Information Management (AIIM) and International Standards Organization (ISO) 16175, which governs Principles and Functional Requirements for Electronic Records in Office Environments and Requirements for Digital Records Management Systems.
We have the inherent knowledge, skill and capabilities in managing the digital transformation of an organization based on a staff and skills diversity of people with strong credentials and great experience in Document Conversion, Information Technology, Data Analysis, Electronic Record Keeping, and Electronic Case Management via our flagship case management product, Arkcase.