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Is there a ticking data time bomb in the warehouse?

Why unopened storage cartons full of old data could be a GDPR threat

Have you ever wondered what’s in all those corporate boxes of paper sent to the warehouse for storage? Have you even opened them in the last 10 years to check?

If the answer to that second question is ‘no’ then there could be a problem ahead.

Crown Records Management has stored boxes on behalf of clients for many years and even in this data-led age we still look after millions across the world.

Storage remains an important service for many businesses and that is unlikely to change; but as information management and data protection continues to evolve, the boxes cannot be ignored.


GDPR is here and brings with it a new age in which citizens are given far greater rights over their personal data.

They will have the right to ask for data to be edited, deleted or ported – and there will be strict timeframes around how quickly requests need to be actioned.

Additionally, there will be far stricter guidelines on what information can be stored in the first place. Businesses will need the express permission of people to collect, store and process their data. There is a potential for substantial fines if information is not managed or used correctly.

In fairness, you would need to have been living under a stone not to have noticed GDPR is here and that it will have big implications.

But what not many people have realised is that the new regulations not only applies to digital data, but also to physical data on paper too.

That means keeping boxes full of records when you don’t need to, especially when you have no idea what they contain, is potentially a ticking data time bomb. It could cost businesses a lot of money and in the worst-case scenario lead to potential fines.

So how big is the problem?

Getting accurate figures on the number of boxes affected across the country is difficult because of the mix of outsourced managed items and ‘in-house’ storage facilities. Then there are also self-storage or removals companies that house documents too.

Crown alone stores millions of cartons of documents and estimate that around 15% are either past their destroy date or, have been kept for over 10 years having never been accessed.

Based on that, we estimate that the total number of outsourced boxes alone is between 150m-200m. Adopting this figure, we can assume that a staggering 22.5-30m cartons are possibly being kept unnecessarily.

Of course, many boxes need to be kept for legal and regulatory reasons and others hold information which could have value in future. Nobody is suggesting they are all kept unnecessarily.

A lot of people are keeping boxes of documents ‘just in case’ or because they don’t know what’s in them and no one has the time or funding to do that, so the problem just grows. Some items are kept because of the fear of destroying something that may miraculously become useful on the future. This is a false economy.

Under GDPR, companies urgently need to know what data they are storing, and where it is, and how it is being used. Those that do are more likely to prosper, as the public is more aware and more attuned to the regulations whilst for those that ignore the regulations, the clock is ticking!

Do you know what is in you box?

To find out more information please contact your Crown representative or contact us here

By David Fathers

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