US government agency still uses floppy disks

floppy disk

If you thought floppy disks were a thing of the past, then you should think again. At least if you plan on working for the US Federal Register. Why? Because the Federal Register still uses the outdated tech to receive documents from other government entities.

The Federal Register is a federal publication, put out by the Government Printing Office, which publishes approximately 100 proclamations, proposed rule changes, executive orders, and other government notices each day. These notices are not only posted on the Federal Register website but also in booklet form for public inspection. However, thanks to legislation, this group is not allowed to be the most up to date on the latest technology.

The problem resides in the Federal Registry Act that requires an agency that is submitting the document to submit the original document, complete with signature. Along with the document the agency has to submit either two certified copies of the document or two duplicate originals. The act does allow for the original document to be scanned into the computer and then delivered to the Register on either CD-ROMs or 3 ½” floppy disk. As of right now, the act does not allow the documents to be scanned and placed on USB sticks or SD cards because the technology wasn’t around when the act was written.

New computers aren’t even equipped to handle the antiquated technology of the 3 ½” floppy so agencies must do what they can to keep in compliance with legislation. The legislation has allowed agencies to begin emailing the necessary documents to the Register. However, the agencies must first put in place a Public-Key Infrastructure that allows for digital signatures of the documentation. However, upgrading to a PKI is expensive and not all agencies have been able to do so at this time.

“There are limits to how far we can make the agencies do everything in lock step,” Jim Bradley, the assistant public printer for the Government Printing Office said. Budget cuts have slowed modernization at many of the agencies.

[via Ars Technica, New York Times]

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