It looks like corporations do not want teenagers to have all the fun when it comes to messages or photos that self-destruct (Snapchat). Dashlane and Confide are just two of the newest companies that sell a Snapchat-like software that allows business users to send messages that will never become part of the permanent virtual paper trail. Dashlane allows the sender to set a time for the message to delete itself permanently. A Confide message will disappear once the recipient replies or otherwise closes the message. Confide’s Jon Brod sees these services as meeting an important and convenient need in the business world (Sarah Frier, “Snapchat for the Corner Office” Bloomberg Businessweek, 1/13/14–1/19/14, pp. 34–35):
“‘We think it’s incredibly important, like in the offline world, to provide the option of impermanence online.’” (p. 35)
That makes sense. Not every casual remark or communication absolutely demands historical enshrinement. On the other hand, when it comes to regulatory agencies, they might feel differently. The whir of the shredder tends to raise their suspicions:
“Companies face heavy regulatory pressure to preserve—not destroy—work e-mails, financial records, and other documents. ‘Whenever you’re dealing with business tools, there still needs to be some kind of audit trail and accountability,’ says Vanessa Thompson, an analyst for market researcher IDC. Last month the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority fined Barclays $3.75 million for its decade-long failure to retain certain electronic records, e-mails, and instant messages. If employees are discussing critical information or creating financial records, those probably need to be saved, says Scott Whitney, vice president for product management at social media compliance consulting firm Actiance.” (p. 34)
Records retention regulatory requirements can vary widely depending on the industry and the circumstances. And of course, one of the annoying corollaries on Murphy’s Law is that as soon as you permanently dispose of a record, a sudden and urgent need arises for that record.
Another quandary regarding records deletion is the question of intent. When a company has permanently deleted an electronic record, will it be obvious to an outside investigator that the deletion was performed, 1). as part of an innocent routine purge, or 2). with nefarious intent? Depending on who is involved, your guess might be as good as mine.
By the way, this blog post will disappear after you finish reading it.