New rules require enterprises to save and archive text and instant messages, joining longstanding regulations requiring e-mail archiving. As a recent congressional hearing on the Wall Street meltdown shows, the results can be embarrassing, but Onset Technology says it doesn't have to be so.
You have to give the nation's credit rating agencies high marks for at least
one thing: archiving their wireless communications. While Moody's Investors
Service, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings otherwise showed scant regard
for their own industry's rules, regulations and ethics, they did remember to
save all those pithy text messages and instant messages fired off from
enterprise-issued smart phones.
Because they did, Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform, was able to introduce at an Oct. 22 hearing
this embarrassing IM sent between two Moody's executives: "We rate every
deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it."
Coupled with piles of incriminating e-mail ("If you can't figure out
the loss ahead of the fact, what's the use of your ratings? ... If the ratings
are b.s., the only use in ratings is comparing b.s. to more b.s."), the
electronic communications of the credit rating agencies again proved that
everything written by any employee on any company device is fair game for
prosecutors and regulators everywhere.
E-mail, of course, has been long been required to be archived by a host of
regulations, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, but in December 2007 FINRA
(Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) decreed text and instant messages
must also be saved. FINRA, according to its Web site, is the "largest nongovernmental
regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United
But even outside of financial institutions, the trend is clear about saving
and archiving all communications. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act applies to all
publicly traded companies, and virtually all companies face rules and
regulations tied to retaining communications dealing with employment practices.
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rules apply to all
medical organizations (remember the hospital where an employee text-messaged
friends that George Clooney had checked in? The suspended employee certainly
The regulatory expansion to include all wireless communications sent over
company-owned devices has motivated at least three companies to offer
compliance software. LiveOffice,Akonix Systems and Onset Technology all offer
software for saving and archiving wireless communications, including text and
instant messages. Reflecting Research In Motion's domination of the enterprise
handheld market, the software from all three companies is now limited to RIM BlackBerrys,
but coverage for Windows Mobile-equipped devices is on the drawing board.