Zombienertsen, or what information should you keep?

Organizations and businesses are increasingly having to deal with it: they are, willingly or unwillingly, collecting more and more data through more and more channels. The question is to what extent all that data should be kept. Do you have to keep every text message? What about Teams meetings?

Last year, a mutation of the coronavirus was discovered at a mink farm in Denmark. The Danish government took no half measures and culled the entire national mink population, some 17 million animals. The minks were buried, but not deep enough. Rising gases produced during decomposition caused the animals to resurface, which soon gave rise to the term “zombienertsen. Then they were dug up and burned, but a riot of sorts was born. Not only because of the whole course of events, but also because an entire industry had been wiped out. An industry in which Denmark was a world leader until then. The political opposition and the press wanted the bottom line, but then a new riot ensued. Not all communication between the prime minister and stakeholders appeared to be preserved. Due to “security reasons,” the prime minister’s text messages were automatically deleted after 30 days.

What is government communication?

When it comes to data retention, the case of zombienertsen brings up a number of questions. What is part of government communication? What are documents that are important and should be kept? This is not only true in politics by the way! It is important to classify messages and means of communication. Which text message is important enough to keep? The same is true in the business world, think tax matters. If a company sends its direct competitors a message proposing to raise the price of a product by 10 percent, there are tax implications.

Many channels

There are many different communication channels today. We used to have only letters and that did make things manageable. But then came the fax and e-mail. Even today, email is debated: is it part of business communication or not? Is there a retention requirement, and if so, for how long? Meanwhile, we also communicate through WhatsApp, text messaging, all kinds of messenger services. And also consider business conferences through Teams. Should you make a recording of that and keep it? Basically: if financial matters are discussed, you should indeed keep it. But who is making the recording?

Classification is needed

All of these new means of communication must be classified and we must determine which messages should be retained. This requires a flexible strategy and storage method, because the digital world is developing at lightning speed. Only in this way can we correctly classify and preserve different data. A business text message, like any other business communication, must be kept for seven years, especially if such a message has tax relevance. And most business communication is done via e-mail. But who keeps emails for seven years? Regulations in this area are lagging behind. And so, in time, we can all face the proverbial zombienerts.

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