Expire my data

Like milk, when data is stored in our refrigerated data storage facilities it should have an expiration date. Imagine a milk that degraded in your fridge and disappeared after the expiration date. The perfect solution to taking out the trash and having to deal with milk that has gone off.

In the same fashion would it be wonderful to be able to have the ability to submit your information on a form and set an expiration date on them. This way you know that the information will only live for the required time-period set.

From a legal point of view this is very well justified and supported. The Data Protection Act clearly states that data must only be kept for its intended purpose and deleted afterwards. And many organizations do not adhere to it or have very relaxed regulations about when data shall be deleted.

The article by the BBC [2] also talks about fading data. This is looking at data from another perspective. This is one that data is not deleted but abstracted to other forms of information i.e,generalized.


The current restrictions that I can see are:

  1. Database engines will need to be engineered in such a way to facilitate the storage of such information
  2. Will operating systems need to implement the expiration of data?
  3. What happens if someone copies the information e.g.backup ? Will the expiration details follow the information?
  4. It is a very data intense exercise if data is to be transform into an abstract set of the original data, then what are the rules, inputs and outputs that define this process. This can be very tedious and I would imagine very few organizations would implement it unless it was automated in some way.

There are probably many more, certainly I can imagine a number of people who would love this feature of having data that expires. We must be careful though because once it is gone then there will be no way to retrieve it again and in some very rare occasions forgotten information can be handy.

Links Used

[1] – Harold van Heerde – http://www.vanheerde.eu/

[2] – Fading data could improve privacy – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/10324209.stm

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5 Responses to Expire my data

  1. Tony Davies says:

    Record Retention Schedules are key to many regulated industries such as Pharma where the inability to recover information, such as the data which ensured a particular drug batch met quality specifications, can have serious consequences for the manufacturer. This leads to a number of issues around propriety and generic electronic data formats where it is common for the measuring instruments to be retired long before the expiry period for the data they generated has been reached. Several archive vendors specialise in this area and have implemented expiry dates for all records in the systems. Expired data is marked for deletion but only finally deleted once checks have been made that no legal hold has been applied.

    This would also apply to HR records as one of the questions auditors require answering in this sector is whether or not a particular member of staff was trained to the required level. As some of the data has can have retention schedules over 50 years, this would then also apply to the HR records of those operating the instruments.

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