Accountability and transparency means that most government agencies are fastidious (at least in theory) at recording as much as they can of interactions between them and the public. Ideally you will have detailed and accurate records which are readily available to the client citizen. So social networking sites pose a particular challenge.
In the US, some bureaucrats are experimenting with methods of backing-up social networking data using third party products such as Twinbox for Twitter (which works with Outlook), Tweetake, ArchiveFacebook and SocialSafe.
Is this going too far? Social networking is a hybrid between conversation and correspondence, and while government agencies generally record telephone conversations they don’t record face-to-face conversations.
Perhaps social networking should be treated as conversational, and therefore outside the ambit of what should be recorded. Alternatively, perhaps there is a financial model here for prominent social networking sites.
Cloud computing is the term for services like gmail where the applications and the data are stored on an external computer owned by a third party. Social networking sites are really just cloud computing in another guise.
In the US a number of administrations and corporations are experimenting with using cloud computing to provide their basic IT functions. They pay a fee for this, and the cloud computing provider, often Google, stores all their data, upgrades all the apps and performs all their sys admin including backing-up the data.
Why shouldn’t social networking sites offer the same service to corporations and agencies that need it as the cloud computing sites. Would most likely be cheaper for them and they could charge a fee for it which might make up for the lack of sustainable advertising revenues.