A state senator in New York plans to introduce a bill that would overturn the automatic 90-day email deletion policy implemented by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, Capital New York reported Monday. The move by state Sen. Liz Krueger was prompted by a budget hearing last week that shed light on mass email deletions by the administration.
“I was actually pretty disturbed that we have this policy,” Krueger told Capital New York. “I have spent the weekend going through current FOIL law [Freedom of Information Law], and what we are supposed to do for information under FOIL, and want to modernize that to include email communication.” Kreuger added she would introduce the legislation “soon” and would be reflecting on the nuances of going through different kinds of email in the mean time.
The deletion policy, which automatically purges emails by New York state employees across government agencies after 90 days, began full implementation in late February, prompting concern from watchdogs who worry it will undermine attempts to encourage accountability from the state government. Several advocacy organizations, including the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have argued the policy was not only unnecessary from a technological standpoint, it also put New York’s state government out of step with federal government regulations, which mandate that employee emails be retained for seven years.
The mass purging of email comes in the midst of a federal investigation of corruption in Albany that has put the Cuomo administration in its sights. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is currently leading the inquiry into whether Cuomo or his staff directed an anti-corruption commission not to refer cases for prosecution, according to the Wall Street Journal. Cuomo had set up the anti-corruption panel, known as the Moreland Commission, in 2013 to investigate a series of public corruption cases in Albany and later abruptly disbanded it after the state legislature agreed to ethics reforms following a wave of subpoenas.
Aside from the ongoing investigation, the timing of the mass email deletions has also come under scrutiny, with several former state and federal government officials questioning the ethical as well as legal aspects of the statewide mandate.