The IPC/Ontario issued a significant “e-FOI” decision on February 9th. Here is what it said about retrieving e-mails from backup tapes:
In general, an access request for emails does not require a routine search of backup tapes for deleted emails unless there is a reason to assume that such a search is required, based on evidence that responsive records may have been deleted or lost.
This sets up a kind of presumption that institutions will appreciate, but if a requester asks or if there is an indication that responsive records may have been deleted or lost, an institution must search and retrieve responsive e-mails from backup tapes subject to its right to recover a fee. In many cases requesters will opt not to pursue backup tape searches given the fees such searches are likely to generate. Institutions, however, should be careful to base their fee estimates on good evidence of what the restoration and search effort is likely to entail.