It’s not a new topic, but it’s a thorny one. And it’s all thanks to The News of the World. In between allegedly hacking into the phones of murdered school girls, offering possibly incomplete explanations to parliamentary committees and generally not behaving to the highest of standards, it appears that they may have been deleting email trails.
In an article in Computerworld on Monday, it’s been alleged by a Labour MP that managers at News International asked their IT provider HCL to delete emails. Why on earth would you want to delete emails in a storage facility? What possible reason could there be for doing this? If you are generous, you could say that this is an unhappy coincidence.
The likelihood is that there will be lots of thrashing around as the political football gets hoofed about. Murdoch will continue to turn up for dinners (wearing, I have to say, a jacket that even I would have turned down) and say nice things in public and the whole sorry saga will no doubt finish up with more heads rolling.
The downside (for the liberal minded among us) could be legislation on privacy and data handling. I say it is a downside because I do not believe that legislation produced in a knee-jerk fashion to scandals such as this have a track record of being well thought through. But what we could do with as IA professionals is clarity on email retention, the use of such information assets, the release of such assets and what to do when we get asked to delete them. Why? Because it’s not beyond the realms of imagination that it’s the poor swine who was told to delete the mail by some high-up in a suit winds up getting yelled at by the ICO. Having the ability to decline such a request requires utter certainty and clarity on the legal position.
We ought to be able to use reason and common sense to make decisions on data retention, and clearly there are rules in regulated industries. But it looks like matters are going to come to a head, and legislation could result from the inquiries announced.