August 11, 2023

Confidential files you should always shred

Data breaches are increasing each year around the world1. Coupled with the constantly evolving regulatory guidance around the handling, storing and protection of personal data, safeguarding confidential information is essential - and represents a continuous challenge for businesses.

The risks can be high if client or commercial information is stored/disposed of incorrectly or becomes compromised.  By implementing a strong, internal document management process including a defined disposal practice, businesses can help mitigate the increasing threat to client, employee and corporate data security. And one reliable method is secure shredding, which helps make sure that sensitive information is destroyed irretrievably.

In this blog, we explore the different types of confidential files that should be shredded and the importance of doing so. We also discuss your industry's challenges, provide guidance on retention periods, and highlight the importance of checking local legislation.

What types of documents should be shredded?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recommends secure shredding to destroy paper documents. To make sure confidential information remains confidential, a broad range of documents should be securely shredded.

Financial records, such as bank statements, tax forms and credit card receipts contain sensitive financial information that could be used to identify theft or fraud. Customer data, including personal and financial information, must also be securely disposed of to protect individuals' privacy.

Employee files, including performance reviews, disciplinary records and salary information, contain sensitive details that must be safeguarded to protect employee privacy. Proprietary information and intellectual property, such as research and development documents, product designs and trade secrets, are valuable assets that should be shredded to prevent competitors or unauthorised individuals from gaining access.

Industry-specific examples

Different industries face unique challenges when it comes to document disposal, and many  businesses store and process specific documents that only they would handle. 

Financial institutions such as banks handle vast amounts of financial data. Shredding financial records, loan applications and credit reports is essential to prevent identity theft and maintain the trust of their customers.

Healthcare organisations process highly sensitive medical records that contain private patient information – the level of which can vary depending on the health system in your country. Properly shredding medical records, insurance documents and prescription information is crucial to comply with the healthcare regulations of most countries.

Legal firms deal with a wide range of confidential documents, such as client contracts, court filings and legal correspondence. Shredding these documents ensures client confidentiality and protects sensitive legal information from falling into the wrong hands.

Other sectors, including retail, hospitality and e-commerce, collect, store and process customer data such as names, addresses and credit card information. Shredding customer records after the required retention period helps mitigate the risk of data breaches and unauthorised access.

Guidance on retention periods

Understanding the appropriate retention periods for different types of documents is crucial for regulatory compliance and efficient records management. Retaining documents beyond their necessary retention period and delaying their destruction by storing them indefinitely may leave your business open to data-breaches and monetary penalties.

By following retention guidelines and shredding unneeded documents, you can minimise the storage burden, reduce the risk of financial penalties, and maintain compliance with legal requirements.

Importance of checking local legislation

Data protection regulations and requirements can vary from one jurisdiction to another.

To ensure compliance with local laws, it is essential for businesses to stay updated on document retention and disposal regulations. Checking local legislation related to data protection and privacy empowers organisations to align their shredding practices with specific regulations affecting their operations. By staying informed and compliant, businesses can protect themselves and their customers from legal and reputational risks.

In an era where businesses remain at high alert of a data breach and when unauthorised access to confidential information is pervasive, it is crucial for businesses to prioritise data protection.

Implementing proper shredding practices for confidential files is an essential step in safeguarding sensitive information and maintaining customer trust. By understanding the types of documents that should be shredded, considering their industry’s challenges, following retention guidelines and staying informed about local legislation, organisations can enhance their overall data protection efforts.

Working with information destruction professionals will help make sure that businesses benefit from a secure chain of custody for their sensitive information, alongside compliance with evolving data protection rules.

Shred-it is committed to helping businesses protect their sensitive information through secure document shredding. Our professional services ensure that confidential files are destroyed beyond recovery, helping you meet legal requirements and safeguarding your data. And because we are present in countries around the world, we understand your local requirements. Contact us today to learn more about our shredding solutions and strengthen your data protection practices.

[1] According to Infosecurity Magazine, data breaches increased by 70% in Q3 of 2022, compared to Q2: ​​ The World Economic Forum also reports that the cost of data breaches worldwide continues to rise by 20% year on year (