Monday, 3 November 2014

When is it a good time to delete records?

I was surprised to learn today that Parliament has got away with something that no regulated company would, surely, ever expect to get away with.

Evidently, the Parliamentary authorities have argued that, in order to adhere to parliamentary rules, the records of Parliamentarians’ expense claims will be deleted after 3 years. That’s not a lot of time for intrepid investigators to determine whether any malpractice has occurred.

I would love to know what HM Revenue and Customs would say if I were to establish a data retention policy that enabled me to delete my own expenses records in such a short time. My financial records need to kept for much longer periods than just 3 years.

The last time I checked, the Third Data Protection Principle required personal data to be adequate, relevant and not excessive – while the Fifth Principle required that personal data must not be kept for longer than is necessary.

So, I would argue, these principles surely mean that sufficient personal data must exist for a sufficiently long period to permit natural justice to run its course. Is this an over-hasty disposal of potentially incriminating evidence?  Especially given the recent evidence of past parliamentary behaviour?

According to the parliamentary rules, incident reporting forms that may lead to compensation claims have to be retained for 7 years after the finalization of a claim.  Notes made by nurses following a visit by a parliamentary employee due to minor illnesses or injuries need to be retained for 10 years past the termination of employment. Records of occupational health and safety training on exposure to noise, asbestos and other hazardous materials must be kept for 40 years after the termination of that individual’s employment.

Given today’s criticism, I expect that Parliament’s Data Protection Officer will be reviewing this records retention schedule shortly.

But then again, I wonder how many of the journalists who have complained about the deletion of parliamentary expense records after only 3 years are also those who have complained that their communication data records are being kept for as long as a whole year?


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