If you don’t, your company could find itself having to save documents it would much rather have gotten rid of when a lawsuit occurs. More importantly, customer information is protected by law and not handling it with care can lead to significant and adverse consequences.
Consider the tale reported over at the Clutter Diet blog. The company in this tale did not handle customer data properly at all.
Shredding document isn’t enough either; companies will reconstruct the shredded documents for a hefty fee – even from cross-cut documents. In the New York Times (July 17, 2003) Doublas Heingartner reports about an effort to reconstitute hundreds of documents from the East German Stasi (or secret police).
The best thing to do is to have a written and accurate plan for disposing of documents, and a method of disposal that precludes reconstitution. The US military now uses pulping and pulverizing of paper; it should be possible to do this with corporate documents in some fashion as well.
A data retention plan should, of course, manage electronic documents as well. Sensitive documents should be deleted and the hard drive space wiped. If the hard drive is to be disposed of, physical destruction is the only way to completely be assured of total data loss; however, your company may very well be satisfied with a complete wipe of the drive with tools like Darik’s Boot And Nuke.
Just do it. Your lawyers and customers will thank you.