The Chain of Custody is an extremely important document in the Data Destruction process.
During the retirement of your office electronics, gone are the days when you could just turn everything over to the company that was hired to remove them and trust it is all taken care of. Unfortunately, history has proven that there are always people out there who are looking to cut corners, aren’t trustworthy and/or whose intentions are less than honorable. Also, you are most likely responsible for the information on those devices until they are physically destroyed.
So, to ensure your equipment along with the data that is on them is properly handled and then ultimately destroyed, a reputable company will provide you with proper documentation and a Chain of Custody, that will track your electronics from the time you turn everything over to them to the time of destruction. Often times you will sign a document once the company comes to pick up your equipment, thus turning over all the equipment to them and placing it under their responsibility. Some of the top electronics recyclers even track the shipments via GPS so you will have access to those reports so you will know at all times exactly where your equipment is and when it was destroyed. By documenting the entire process, you will have a written record of where everything has been, who had access to it and when it was officially destroyed. The Chain of Custody documentation would also be necessary to show that you have properly destroyed all data and that you have complied with the proper regulation in case of litigation, government investigation or an audit.
Also, you need to keep in mind that all records are not technically destroyed until they are physically destroyed. So just because you took all the physical files and had them properly destroy but then turned over your electronics to a recycler, you are still could be held responsible for the destruction of the contents on those electronics. Also, the destruction of the contents isn’t official until the physical drives are actually destroyed. If after you turn the electronics over to the recycler, you receive a request for information and even though you have destroyed the physical papers by proper destruction, you are still obligated to produce them if a copy of it exists on your electronics. So once again, having a Chain of Custody that shows when the equipment was pickups and when it was destroyed, will ensure you are not subject to potential legal action. Failure to produce records that have not been physically destroyed can lead to prosecution for obstruction of justice or contempt of court, fines and penalties, or other adverse consequences to you or your organization.
For these reasons, it is important that once your electronics have been approved for destruction and you have hired a company to handled that process, that the equipment should be destroyed as soon as possible and that they provide you with the Chain of Custody documentation that is vital to demonstrate that everything was handled appropriately and destroyed responsibly.