Common problems and their causes
Are you unsure about when it is safe to destroy information?
Most people keep far more information than they need. Desks are overflowing with paper, email inboxes bursting at the seams and network drives full of hundreds if not thousands of assorted documents, spreadsheets and other files.
For some this may be a conscious decision fed either by a belief that their copy might be the only one in existence or, that no matter how obscure or trivial that one piece of information is, it might prove critical in the future and should be kept ‘just in case’.
For others it is less driven by a conscious thought process and is more the by-product of a lack of knowledge on which to base an informed decision. As a result the safest default option often appears to be to keep it.
Why this issue is important
Information overload is a very real problem for many modern organisations. Unfortunately its negative impact often goes unnoticed for long periods of time but can just as easily suddenly rear its head as the cause of a very serious and public incident.
Risks associated with retaining too much information:
It costs over £160 per annum to house a filing cabinet. Significant amounts of time and money are often wasted in searching for misfiled or poorly filed information. (Based on the costs associated with maintaining 1m2 of urban university office accommodation (2006/7 figures) – University of Bristol)
Breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998
The Fifth Data Protection Principle states:
Personal data processed for any purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for those purposes
Retaining redundant information also risks breaching the Second Data Protection Principle
Data must be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes and must not be processed in any way that is incompatible with that purpose.
and the Seventh Principle
Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data.
Damage to reputation and/or assets caused by the unintended relation of dangerous or inflammatory information
The Freedom of Information Act states that all public authorities have a duty to confirm or deny the existence of information held by them upon request and to provide access to it – unless the information can be withheld under one of the stated exemptions contained within the Act. There is no exemption for embarrassment.