9.11 Methods of File Destruction - Paper and Electronic Files
The predominant destruction method is paper shredding. You may decide to purchase or lease a paper shredder. Cross-cut shredders are the preferred type. Alternatively, you may hire a paper shredding company, but if you do so, someone in the firm should monitor the work and ensure that the documents are destroyed(many companies provide certificates of destruction). In some rural areas, burning may be an option. It is clearly never acceptable for you or your staff to throw file documents into the trash, a dumpster, a recycling bin or a public landfill.
You also need to think about the methods of deleting and destroying computer files and computer hard drives. Some highly sensitive information should not be put into a computer unless there is an encryption protection for the information. In any event, computer hard drives should not simply be dumped into public trash receptacles, donated or sold. Be careful about information stored on USB drives as these drives can easily be misplaced. Be sure to erase documents stored on USB drives, and consider implementing a practice of controlling usage of USB sticks in your office (e.g. numbering them and monitoring where they are). Consider using encrypted USB sticks and developing a policy that all USB sticks used for client work be encrypted.
Even if documents appear to be deleted on a hard drive, skilled individuals may be able to reconstruct the information that resides on it. You must ensure that confidentiality is fully protected since programs exist for reformatting hard drives.
Some governments shred hard drives but these shredders are not commonly available. Smashing the platters in the hard drives with a hammer will destroy the data, but it may destroy your entire computer if not done properly. Contact the Practice Advisors at the Law Society for information on products that are available for destroying hard drives, or refer to File Retention and Document Management.