About a month ago I tweeted a link to a story that keeps cropping up. The link to the local #WFTV story is in the title (Personal documents, SS numbers found in dumpster behind Orlando law firms). These stories keep on landing on the local news but this one seemed to have more finger pointing than most. Lawyers pointing to the landlord, the landlord pointing to cleaning staff and then circling back to the lawyers. It’s like a bad reenactment of the old Abbott and Costello routine of “Who’s on First.” We all know that records with Personally Identifiable Information (PII) should be disposed of securely – so why does this kind of thing keep happening? Are small practitioners such as medical offices, law firms and CPAs that out of touch with records and information practices?
What all this actually points to is a lack of information governance and, in particular, a lack of accountability, which should have been defined by the law firm on the outset. Information governance isn’t just a challenge for large organizations and corporations. Any and all business and professional entities should be concerned about who is responsible for the proper destruction of documents and have a defined process for doing so.
Pointing to the cleaning crew as the problem does not make sense. Most cleaning crews don’t just take records and documents off of people’s desks and throw them out. These records should never have been located in an area where they could be mistaken for trash. So here’s the question? Who in your organization is ultimately accountable for making sure that policies and procedures for the protection, retention and eventual disposal of the organization’s information have been developed? This doesn’t say they have to create the procedures but someone has to take responsibility for making sure that information governance is addressed. That’s what accountability is about and it isn’t just reserved for the giants among us. And, if you are in a large organization you might start taking a serious look at your field offices and see if they are in the same league. Do you really want to be another local news story?