Are Tweets records? Thoughts on Twitter and record keeping

I recently read a post on Janet Fouts blog about a service that offers to backup your “lifestream” (I hate that term). This is a service that offers to backup your Flickr-photos, your Google documents, your Gmail messages etc. and even your Tweets. I can see why having backups of some of these types of data can be useful – but Tweets? Who would want to pay money to have their Tweets preserved for eternity?

What is “official” communication?

Then I suddenly realized that doing this might actually be really important: the rules of my organization state that we have to record and store all official communication for a certain number of years. Once a year all our press releases, appeals documents etc. get printed and burned on a CD before being sent to the archives.

A legal obligation to preserve Tweets?

Do you need to archive your Tweets?

Do you need to archive your Tweets? (Photo: ed ludwick)

But what about Tweets, Facebook updates and similar forms of communication? Considering they are written by someone from the communications department – does that make them official records as well? If they are, then we should have a mechanism to preserve and archive them as well. I’m sure this will become an issue – and probably sooner rather than later. However, I expect that the first time that this will become a legal issue will not be in a non-profit context but with a big cooperation where a Tweet has influenced the stock price.

But if your legal status as a non-profit (the rules differ from country to country) requires you to have copies of all your official communication, or if your internal policies say you have to do it, then it might indeed be a good idea to start backing them up.

Recommended reading:

  • Charles Stross wrote a long but excellent post about the possibilities and dangers of recoding every aspect of our lives.
  • @itybtyctykty

    My favorite tool for archiving my own tweets is http://tweetbook.in.

    It makes a PDF of your last 2000 tweets – which is plenty, as long as you do it often enough.

  • You can also use Dipity for creating a timeline of your tweets of blog posts

    http://www.dipity.com/

    • Interesting – I had never heard of that service. I'll play with it later today :-). Thanks.