In today’s digital age, vast amounts of personal data are collected and stored by organizations. This data can range from names and addresses to financial and medical records, and businesses must ensure the proper management and protection of this information. Data retention policies help organizations determine how long personal data should be stored and when it can be deleted.
Do you need to define the data retention period?
It is crucial to define the data retention period for personal data. The time that data should be stored depends on various factors, including legal and regulatory requirements and the purpose for which the data was collected. Organizations must consider all of these factors when developing their data retention policies.
Retain personal data
A data retention period refers to the length of time that a company or organization keeps personal data on file. This period can vary depending on several factors, including the purpose for which the data was collected, regulatory requirements, and the nature of the data itself. For example, data collected for historical research purposes may need to be kept longer than data collected for sales or marketing purposes.
Storage limitation principle
The storage limitation principle is a fundamental principle of data protection, which states that personal data should not be kept for any longer than is necessary for the purposes for which it was collected. This principle is supported by various data protection regulations, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States.
How long can personal data be stored?
The length of time that personal data can be stored depends on various factors, including the type of data, the purpose for which it was collected, and the legal and regulatory requirements that apply. In some cases, personal data may only need to be stored for a short period, such as for the duration of a transaction. In other cases, personal data may need to be stored for extended periods, such as for historical research purposes.
What should we do with personal data that we no longer need?
Once the data retention period has passed, and personal data is no longer needed, it should be deleted in a secure manner to protect the privacy of the data subject. The process of deleting data is known as “data erasure” or “data sanitization.” Data erasure should be performed in a way that ensures that personal data cannot be recovered and that it is not accessible to unauthorized parties. This may involve physically destroying hard drives or other storage devices, overwriting the data multiple times, or using secure data erasure software.
It is also important for organizations to consider the privacy implications of transferring personal data to third parties for disposal. This may involve signing contracts and agreements with third-party providers that ensure that the data is securely disposed of and that the privacy rights of data subjects are protected.
Organizations should have a clear and well-documented process for data erasure, including procedures for verifying that the data has been securely deleted. This will help organizations demonstrate compliance with legal requirements and to ensure that they are protecting the privacy of data subjects. In addition to data erasure, organizations may also consider anonymizing personal data if it is no longer needed. Anonymized data is data that has been processed in a way that makes it impossible to identify the data subject. Anonymized data can be used for purposes such as statistical analysis or scientific research without risking the privacy of the data subject.
Data retention requirements in the United States
In the United States, various federal and state laws dictate the retention periods for different types of personal data, including the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Organizations must ensure that they comply with these laws when developing their data retention policies.
Creating a data retention policy
Developing a data retention policy is a complex process that requires careful consideration of various factors, including legal and regulatory requirements, the purpose for which data was collected, and the types of data involved. A data retention policy should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that it remains relevant and complies with current requirements.
Benefits of developing a data retention policy
Developing a data retention policy has several benefits, including:
Ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.
Preventing data breaches and protecting sensitive information.
Avoiding the costs and risks associated with data loss.
Improving records management and data organization.
Facilitating audits and investigations.
Protecting the rights of data subjects and avoiding legal penalties.
What data retention policy best practices should you follow?
When developing a data retention policy, organizations should consider the following best practices:
Define the data retention period for each type of personal data.
Consider the legal and regulatory requirements that apply.
Classify the data into categories, such as sensitive data, employee data, and financial data.
Create a data flow map to help visualize the movement of data within the organization.
Consider using a data retention schedule to help manage the retention and deletion of data.
Use data protection and privacy principles, such as the storage limitation principle, to guide the development of the policy.
Ensure that the policy is communicated to all employees and that they understand their responsibilities concerning data retention.
How do you create a data retention policy?
Creating a data retention policy is a multi-step process. Here’s how you can get started:
Identify the data you collect and process: Make a list of all the personal data you collect and process. This may include employee data, credit card payments, and medical records.
Determine the retention period: Decide how long you will retain each type of data. Consider factors such as legal requirements, the purpose for which the data was collected, and regulatory requirements.
Develop a data flow map: Create a visual representation of how data flows through your organization. This will help you understand where personal data is stored and how it is used.
Classify data: Divide your data into categories based on its level of sensitivity. For example, some data may be considered confidential and should be kept for a longer period. In comparison, other data may be less sensitive and can be deleted after a shorter period.
Establish a retention schedule: A retention schedule outlines the specific retention periods for each data type. This schedule should be included in your data retention policy.
Determine the appropriate storage systems: Choose appropriate storage systems for each type of data. For example, some data may need to be stored on encrypted servers, while other data may be stored on a less secure system.
Train employees: Ensure all employees are aware of the data retention policy and understand the importance of following it. Regular training should be provided to ensure compliance.
Regularly review and update: Regularly review and update your data retention policy to ensure it remains compliant with legal requirements and best practices.
Data retention regulations
There are several regulations that businesses must comply with when it comes to data retention. Here are some of the most important:
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): The GDPR sets out requirements for the retention of personal data by organizations operating in the European Union (EU). Organizations must retain personal data for the minimum period necessary and delete it when it is no longer needed.
Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA): FISMA requires federal agencies to implement information security programs to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of government data. FISMA also sets requirements for the retention of government data.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): HIPAA sets requirements for the retention of medical records by healthcare providers and insurance companies.
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS): PCI-DSS sets requirements for the retention of credit card payment data by merchants and service providers.
Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX): SOX sets requirements for the retention of financial records by public companies.
It is vital for businesses to be aware of these regulations and to ensure that their data retention policies comply with them.
Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)
FISMA is a US law requiring all federal agencies to develop, document, and implement information security policies and procedures. One aspect of this law is data retention, which requires agencies to retain data for a minimum period to comply with regulatory requirements and support auditing and investigations.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
HIPAA is a US federal law that sets standards for protecting personal health information (PHI). This law requires organizations to retain PHI for a minimum period and to implement appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy and security of this sensitive data.
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS)
PCI-DSS is a set of security standards that apply to organizations that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card payments. One aspect of this standard is data retention, which requires organizations to retain specific data for a minimum period to support investigations and audits.
Why data retention policies are important
Data retention policies are vital because they provide a framework for organizations to manage their data and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. A well-designed data retention policy can help organizations avoid the costs and risks associated with data breaches, data loss, and non-compliance with regulatory requirements. Additionally, data retention policies can help organizations maintain the trust and confidence of their customers, clients, and stakeholders.
In conclusion, data retention policies are important for organizations to manage their data and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Developing a well-designed data retention policy can help organizations avoid the costs and risks associated with data breaches, data loss, and non-compliance with regulatory requirements. Some best practices for data retention include defining the retention period for each type of data, implementing a secure storage system, and conducting regular reviews to remove unnecessary data.