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Land ministry suspends plan to implement auto-delete rule for official emails

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has shelved a plan to automatically delete official emails from its server one year after they are sent or received, judging that it would take time to familiarize staff with how to properly save correspondence, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

The plan was slated to start on Feb. 1, but the land ministry decided to reconsider it with a possibility of cancelling the initiative while examining practices undertaken at other ministries.

In response to changes to public record management guidelines that the central government implemented in December last year, each ministry as well as the Cabinet Office is supposed to revise in-house rules over document management by this coming April and review their handling of official records. This includes documents that are classified as being of low importance, which can be kept for less than one year and be scrapped at the discretion of bureaucrats.

The land ministry earlier told the Mainichi Shimbun that emails classified as official documents with a retention period of less than one year would be subject to automatic deletion. The ministry notified officials that the new rule would be implemented on Feb. 1.

However, an internal ministry document that the Mainichi obtained, dated Feb. 1, says that the ministry will provide information on the auto-delete rule at a later date, after considering other ministries' decisions, familiarizing workers with the move and examining how well they know the rules on saving their emails.

Meanwhile, the central government on Feb. 2 released a statement on how each ministry and agency auto-deletes emails sent or received by officials after opposition Party of Hope lawmaker Takashi Kii submitted a question over the issue in writing. According to the data, the Ministry of Finance started as early as January 2009 to automatically delete emails 60 days after they were sent or received.

Furthermore, it revealed that the National Tax Agency automatically deletes emails 68 days after they are sent or received on computers that have access to the internet and public prosecutors offices do the same after two months. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare auto-deletes opened emails six months after they are received, while the Defense Ministry sets the retention period for emails sent or received on some of its staff's work mobile phones at 30 to 90 days.

According to the statement released by the central government, the Finance Ministry, Tax Agency and Defense Ministry will continue the practice of auto-deleting emails, while the health ministry and prosecutors offices are set to reconsider whether to continue the auto-delete rule.

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