Step 4: Dispose of information you no longer need

There are a number of actions you should take to ensure that disposal takes place.

Decide on trigger points

A trigger point is required to action disposal. Common examples are:

  • x years after the opening OR closure of a digital file/folder
  • x years after the last entry for example to a spreadsheet or database

Build disposal into your digital systems where possible

You should make the process of disposal as automatic as possible by building it into the digital systems that you use. How you do this will depend on the type of system, as different systems manage disposal in different ways. It will usually involve attaching disposal metadata to information within your systems. Where it is not possible to build in disposal then you will need to manage it separately using the schedules you have compiled under Stage 2 Find out what information you have.

Keep an audit trail

It is important to keep an audit trail of what was deleted and when. Some digital systems will do this automatically for you. For others you will have to keep a record of what has been deleted separately. A schedule of the type described under Stage 2 Find out what information you have will help to demonstrate that the intention was to dispose of information at a certain point, even if it doesn’t prove exactly when the information was disposed of.

Define deletion

Delete doesn’t always mean delete in a digital world and it is often possible to recover digital records after they have been deleted. Creating a policy or statement around when you consider digital records to have been deleted from your systems will help to avoid costly recovery efforts.