A data retention policy is essential to help retain strategic information, in compliance with laws and regulations.
With the rise of big data, the cloud and other new technologies, companies today manage a large amount of data, regardless of the sector of activity. All of this information is a challenge, both in terms of data management and storage, because a company can accumulate so much data that it no longer knows how to manage it.
Furthermore, according to the 2022 report by Serda and Archimag on the government information, only one in five companies has a global vision of their data management and sharing processes. Document management policies are often compartmentalized: the finance department uses a SAP solution, the sales office uses a solution sales force, the marketing department uses an Adobe solution, but no tool plays the role of consolidating and managing corporate documents. Therefore, it becomes impossible to decide which document to save, archive or delete.
Therefore, a data retention policy is essential to allow the retention of strategic information, in compliance with laws and regulations. Overall, such a policy allows you to understand what to do with this data in particular situations.
A data retention policy defines:
- The information retention objectives of a company
- The data that the company must keep and those that it must delete,
- The format used by the company to store the data,
- The data retention period,
- Who is authorized to process and manage data,
- Laws, regulations and reference documents,
- How to deal with violations of the rules.
Evaluate your business data
First, take the time to review the data to properly evaluate and categorize it. Data retention requirements vary by data type and industry. It is therefore important for the company to understand what types of data it processes on a regular basis. For example, a hospital will keep patient medical records longer than internal correspondence.
Next, it is important to identify any data that could be of high risk, such as personal information about customers or former employees. Retaining this information will likely do more harm than good to the business, as the risk remains the same as the value of the data decreases. It’s always a good idea to delete stale data that no longer serves a purpose but could pose a security threat.
Furthermore, it should be determined whether the data is used for commercial purposes or whether it is kept for future use. For example, some companies retain data to train future machine learning models. Any data that is not used for business purposes is subject to breach and slows down workflows making it more difficult to find and analyze important data.
Find out which legal requirements apply to you
After classifying the types of data an organization manages, it should research the legal requirements applicable to its industry. This is because there is no general data retention law for all sectors. Conversely, industries apply various data retention policies.
For example, in the insurance field it is generally necessary to distinguish the data processing carried out outside the conclusion of an insurance contract from those carried out under a contract. Therefore, the data controller cannot keep the data of a prospect for more than 3 years, from their collection or from the last contact of the latter. For information that can allow the observation, defense or exercise of legal rights, it can be kept for a maximum period of 5 years from its collection or from the last contact of the potential customer. Finally, certain limitation periods are likely to apply when concluding an insurance contract. This is the case of life insurance contracts for which the Insurance Code provides for a limitation period of 30 years from the death of the insured for the acts of the beneficiary.
In addition, data protection policies vary by country. For example, the European Union has adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), one of the strictest laws in the world on the matter. According to the GDPR, data processing must be lawful, fair and transparent and companies must only collect the minimum amount of data necessary and cannot keep it indefinitely. But, under the GDPR and the data protection law, many data processing, do not have a retention period set by an article and the definition of the data retention period is determined based on the purpose of the processing. It is therefore essential to know which standards apply to your industry and to follow them to the letter. Otherwise, the company risks running into legal repercussions.
Delete stale data
A data retention period defines how long the data must be kept. Outdated information is more likely to be breached, leading to costly lawsuits and a bad reputation.
It is essential to ensure that the company does not retain data longer than necessary by putting in place a system that allows for automatic deletion and limits access to permanent deletion of data to authorized persons.
Once the data retention policy has been implemented, an internal review should be carried out to ensure that employees comply with it. Additionally, it is important to establish a regular schedule for policy review as the business grows and evolves.
Businesses today are overwhelmed with data. While this data can be an engine of innovation, it can also be a burden. Having a robust data retention policy in place, along with a platform to simplify the life cycle of your data, not only protects your data from unauthorized access or other damage, but also ensures that your data is ready for use by the ‘agency.