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Chain of Custody: What is It and Why Does It Matter?

Chain of custody ensures your document shredding is done right. Here’s what you need to know.

Organizations are connected internally and externally—the data stored in the hardware, software, applications, and documents are your assets, and so are your gates, doors, and buildings that are being used throughout the daily operations. When you have an established physical security policy, you provide a sense of protection and safety in the working environment. When it comes time to destroy data, whether it is because your records have met their retention periods or because you need to make space, understanding the chain of custody is an integral part to a security policy. Here’s why.

Chain of Custody: What Is It?

The chain of custody in the paper shredding industry is a bit different than in legal proceedings, but the legal aspect is the same. Once you have documents prepared for shredding, the process by which those documents leave your possession to the moment they are actually destroyed is considered chain of custody. It’s the little details, like who has prepared the documents for shredding, who has managed said documents prior to shredding, where the documents are being picked up, and how and when they are finally destroyed.

Why Is the Legal Aspect the Same?

There are laws that govern how any facility can destroy documents and when. Laws such as HIPAA, GLBA, and Sarbanes-Oxley Act all mandate the protection of information. It is your duty to adhere to these laws, as non-compliance can result in fines and penalties. If you do not provide adequate protection of sensitive information from the time that it is stored to the time that it is destroyed, a break in the chain of custody can mean breaking the law.

How to Manage an Effective Chain of Custody

To effectively manage a chain of custody, there are key elements to ensuring the safety and protection of information. There should be a trusted individual in charge of records management who oversees how records are stored and kept. This can mean managing locked files, locked storage bins for papers that need to be destroyed, monitoring areas with 24/7 video access, and keeping a log of what information is current or has met its retention period. This person or persons should then facilitate the destruction process, from contracting with a licensed and secure document destruction company, setting up routine shredding schedules, and managing certificates of destruction after any and all shredding services have been completed. Certificates of destruction are essentially insurance that you have done your job during the chain of command.

Shredding has become a necessity for businesses who need to dispose of sensitive information in a compliant and safe manner. Legal Shred is fully versed in all of the document destruction laws and can help you effectively manage your chain of command. Contact us today to learn more about purge shredding services and routine shredding services for your business.

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Chain of Custody

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