Best Practices for GDPR Compliant Document Destruction

As many businesses are aware, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was enforced on May 25, 2018, in all member states of the European Union (EU). The GDPR, a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for EU citizens, has brought a significant impact on the way businesses handle data, including their document destruction practices.
With data protection being critical than ever before in today's digital marketplace, companies need to ensure their document destruction practices are GDPR compliant. This article will break down some of the best practices your company can adopt to ensure GDPR compliant document destruction.

**Understanding the Regulation**

Firstly, to comply with GDPR, it is paramount to understand what the regulation requires. The GDPR applies to all businesses that store, process or transfer personal data of EU citizens, regardless of where the organization is located. Document destruction under GDPR must be done in a manner that ensures the data 'cannot be recreated.' Non-compliance will result in hefty fines.

**Establish a Document Retention and Destruction Policy**

Having a clear document retention and destruction policy is a necessary starting point to ensure GDPR compliance. The policy should clearly state how long the documents should be kept, when they should be destroyed, and how the destruction should be carried out.
It's essential to consider the nature of the data when setting retention periods. While some types of information may need to be stored indefinitely, others may be destroyed after a year or even less. Make sure to consult your legal advisor to understand the appropriate rules and regulations for different types of data.
The policy should also explicitly state the methods of destruction for both electronic and paper documents that ensure the data cannot be recreated.

**Implement Clear Procedures**

Once you have a policy in place, the next step is to implement clear procedures to ensure every document is destroyed properly. This involves proper documentation, monitoring, and validating the process to confirm the document is no longer recoverable.
For paper documents, cross-cutting shredders are generally adequate. For electronic documents, specialized software can help overwrite data, while physical destruction may also be necessary for certain types of storage media.

**Educate Employees**

Employee education is another critical aspect of GDPR compliant document destruction. It is the responsibility of every employee to handle data in a manner commensurate with the GDPR. Consequently, invest in training and communication to ensure that all employees understand the document destruction process and the reasons behind it.

**Regular Audits**

To confirm that your document destruction practices meet GDPR standards, carry out regular audits. These checks will help identify and rectify any gaps in the process, thereby keeping your practices in line with GDPR requirements.

**Outsource Document Destruction**

For many businesses, employing a certified document destruction company's services is the most efficient, reliable and cost-effective method to ensure GDPR compliance. These companies specialize in document destruction and are up-to-date with GDPR rules and regulations.

**Use Digital Tools**

While physical document destruction is critical, in today's digital age, the protection of electronic data cannot be overlooked. GDPR also applies to digital data, including PDF and other electronic document formats. Use tools like HelpRange that provide PDF document protection, usage analytics and tooling to ensure digital files are safe and can be destroyed when deemed necessary. These tools not only provide robust data protection and control over your PDF files but also provide valuable analytics on document usage.


GDPR compliant document destruction is an essential part of data protection. It helps protect personal data, which is vital to maintaining client trust and avoiding severe financial penalties. The best practices outlined above are not exhaustive but serve to offer a strong starting point. Remember, achieving GDPR compliance is not a one-time event, but a continual process that involves regular reviews, audits, and updates to your document retention and destruction practises.
In a world where data is increasingly valuable, ensuring GDPR compliant document destruction should be a top priority for all companies. Effective document destruction practices, combined with good data management and security, can help businesses maintain compliance and foster trust with their clients and the public.

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