News email saga gets bumped from front page

A firework sending a blast through the global media or a damp squib? The scandal over deletion of email records at News Limited has moved off the front pages since rioters took over the streets of London, however furore has been blown out of proportion, according to one email management expert.

Following the revelations of phone hacking by News Limited newspapers in the UK, a parliamentary committee there heard allegations that the organisation had ordered more than 200,000 messages to be deleted.

According to a report in PC Pro, email was managed by Indian outsourcing company HCL which revealed it had been asked to delete internal emails on nine occasions between April 2010 and July 2011.

But according to email security specialist Mimecast, the vast majority of the emails would have had no value to investigators and were computer-generated responses.

“The majority of the email deletions, some 200,000, were for things like delivery failure messages and would have had no forensic evidence whatsoever,” Barry Gill, enterprise consultant at Mimecast, told the magazine.

According to HCL the deletion of email inboxes was never carried out, which Gill said was “more worrying from a compliance point of view”, while News International has said it is working with police investigators to make relevant emails available.

Last year IDM was able to interview News Limted CIO, John Pittard, for a story about information management at the Australian operations of the global publishing empire. The story is available online here.

During the course of this interview, Pittard highlighted  the following challenge with regard to email management.

“Centralising email management and archiving is a big priority for News Limited, which still faces the challenge of staff storing PST files on their desktop PCs.

“Any media company is subject to regular litigation so we have to be rigorous around what we do,” said Pittard.

The allegations surrounding the phone hacking by News of the World journalists have prompted many IT professionals to question their own email and document management policies.

Fairfax Digital had been leading the coverage of questionable practices at News Limited newspapers in the UK, but when asked its policy with regard to email management and retention by journalists in Australia, refused to comment.

It would be fair to assume that many politicians and journalists are working “off the record” and beyond the radar with webmail accounts, easily accessible via 3G devices not locked into corporate IT management.

One UK newspaper quoted a member of Parliament as saying, “It certainly looks as if … News International were deliberately thwarting their investigation.”

In a statement, News International said that “[it] keeps backups of its core systems and, in close co-operation with the (police’s) Operation Weeting team, has been working to restore these backups.”