The high price of garbage: Shredding your discarded records can protect your company and clients Stanley M. Hurwitzrecord disposal, consumer privacy, regulatory compliance
Not long ago, in a seemingly simple scenario, police followed
two women whom they had seen 'dumpster diving' to a nearby hotel.
When arrested, the two women were sorting the contents of a dozen
trash bags, looking for valuable data to use for identity fraud and
corporate spying. The bags had been tossed into the trash by a
small medical facility.
What many executives may not know is that they could be breaking
the law when they simply dump documents in the trash, according to
Tom McGinnis, president of City Shredding Corporation, a document
destruction firm located in Brockton, Mass. He added that many
business owners and managers are often surprised to learn that
their non-secure dumping of information-filled trash could result
in big fines.
"Everyday in every city, companies of all sizes toss bags of
'useless papers' into a dumpster or leave overflowing wastebaskets
for the cleaning crew," said McGinnis. "Owners and managers must
realize that they are not only giving away personal data, but they
may be giving away the store--all their company secrets."
There are several laws that address the safe disposal of
consumer information. For example, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of
1999 addresses how industries share and protect information about
customers. The 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act
(FACTA), perhaps the first enforced national shredding requirement,
requires that anyone who "possesses consumer information used for a
business purpose ... must properly dispose of such
McGinnis offers several hints to help companies protect their
data. First, use centralized, "locking" containers to dispose of
sensitive documents. Contract with a certified document destruction
firm for regularly scheduled destruction. It is also important to
educate management and staff on the dangers of untracked trash, and
finally, appoint someone to oversee document destruction and review
your company's compliance on a regular basis.
Stanley Hurwitz is a public relations and marketing
consultant with Stoughton, Mass.-based Creative Communications. He
can be reached at (508) 269-0570 or e-mail