DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT let this happen to you! Even though everyone says "oh, it won't happen to me", don't be that person. It can, and will, happen to you. What is 'it' though? 'It' is the heavy imposition of FINES on you for the improper disposal of sensitive information. These fines are imposed by both Massachusetts state laws (93H and 93I which require the proper destruction of information containing social security numbers, driver's license numbers, financial account numbers, and credit or debit card numbers) as well as federal regulations like HIPAA that require the secure destruction of PHI (protected healthcare information)as well as FACTA. If anything is to be taken away from this blog, it should be that the DUMPSTER is NO PLACE for the disposal of any kind of sensitive record. If you even have to question whether or not the information is "sensitive", then it probably is. Too many times companies, large and small, are exposed, and fined heavily, for disposing of sensitive information belonging to their clients, patients, or customers simply into the trash.
For the companies that don't heed warning and do not take the proper steps to ensure the security and proper disposal of sensitive information, they are used to make examples of what NOT to do. This is done by way of news reporters plastering the names of companies, and what they did, all over the headlines. For example, big corporations like RiteAid, Walgreens, and CVS were all EXPOSED for their improper disposal of private prescription information. Hitting closer to home, St. Elizabeth's Medical Center is investigating how patient financial information was found floating around on the streets outside of a building in Charlestown. Thankfully, the hospital is taking the correct measures to ensure that this does not happen again. Also, the hospital did what it is required to do by law when a data breach of this sort happens and they notified the Massachusetts Attorney General's office.
Then, we come across a more interesting situation where SHREDDED PAPER was used as confetti in the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade. So what's the big deal? We'll the shreds were very thick and cut perfectly horizontal across the paper so that perfectly clear lines of text were able to be read, including social security numbers, and other sensitive information. It is clear that a typical office shredder was used to shred these documents since that is the common level of "security" that an office shredder provides. The differences between an office shredder and a commercial shredder is the level of security in the 'cut' of the paper. Security levels 1-6 exist with the higher the level, the higher the security of the cut. Office shredders typicall have level 1 or 2 security where the shreds of paper are thick, easy to read and easy to reconstruct. Security levels 3 and 4 give consequtively smaller cuts of paper and allow for cross-cutting, inhibiting the readability of the shreds as well as inhibiting the ability to reconstruct the shreds. Security levels 5 and 6 are recommended for destroying top-secret government or research documents due to the shreds coming from this shredder being like grated-cheese. It is typical of a commercial shredding company to have a shredder with a security level from 3-6. Then, in some instances, a reputable shredding company will go one step further and have your shreds pulverized and recycled.
The one thing that could have made a huge difference in each of these three situations is if the drug stores, the hospitals, and the police stations had all used a document shredding and storage company for their storage and destruction needs. Although the actions of safe and secure document storage and destruction seem straight forward and simple, they are best to be left in the hands of those companies who make it their sole purpose to protect information (yes, even AFTER it is shredded!).