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Shred It: Information Destruction Careers

Thanks to computers and the media, we're surrounded by new information all the time. Plenty of careers involve creating and using this information. But some people are actually making a career out of destroying information -- and their skills are in demand.

With the rise of online services and the increased use of digital information storage, more people are worried about things like identity theft and corporate spying. Everyone wants to make sure their private information doesn't get into the wrong hands.

Protecting sensitive records is the job of information destruction companies. People are seeking their services as we hear more about important information being stolen or used for the wrong purpose.

"You need only look to nearly every newspaper in the country to see stories of data breaches, privacy rights violations and identity theft," says Nate Segall. Segall is the vice-president of an information destruction company.

"Today, more than ever, companies' trade secrets, as well as their customers', clients', and employees' personal and private information are in demand by competitors and those identity thieves looking to profit from that information."

Behind the Need for Information Destruction

Government legislation also comes into play for the demand for information destruction. The government is cracking down on information theft.

"The problem is growing at an alarming rate, and the government is quickly taking notice," says Segall. "Recent legislation is forcing companies, under penalty of law, to take a more active approach in the design of a defendable information destruction policy.

"Our industry is growing at a very rapid rate now because the increasing amount of legislation is requiring more and more information to be destroyed before it is disposed of."

"Laws focused on privacy often hold businesses responsible for any security breaches," says Joseph Bozic. He is the principal of an information destruction company. "And even if the law doesn't, there is a good chance the customers will. Many of these laws are fairly new and it's expected that they will increase in number."

Destruction Basics

What exactly is information destruction?

"I guess this can mean a lot of things, now that I think of it," says Nicole Stefenelli. She's the co-owner and general manager of an information destruction company.

"But to our industry, it essentially describes our process. Customers contract us to pick up their confidential materials, be it paper, files or back-up discs. We're contracted to destroy the information so that it can't be put or pieced back together and used by someone else. Essentially, the information which we receive is turned into a product that is meaningless."

Information can be stored on both paper and electronic sources. Paper shredding services have been available for a while. The area that is really exploding right now is the electronic realm.

"The consensus is that paper-based information destruction is fairly established and growth will be moderate," says Bozic.

"However, electronic-based data destruction is now starting to come to the forefront of both consumer and business consciousness. It's expected that this aspect of the industry will experience tremendous growth in the future."

Bozic points out that as long as we see technology advancing, there will be a need for destruction experts, especially those with the technical skills to strip information from electronic media.

"As information technology improves and becomes less expensive, businesses are more willing to upgrade their IT equipment regularly," he says. "Managing the data stored on the old IT equipment is a major challenge for these companies. It takes time to destroy the data and often companies' internal employees have other responsibilities."

Getting Started

People interested in electronic information destruction need a good background in computers.

"People can get started by working for an established information destruction company," says Bozic.

"However, people working in the electronic information destruction field should try to obtain some experience in a technical capacity first. Professionals that have the technical expertise to carry out data destruction on electronic media are starting to come into demand, and I believe that trend will continue to increase in the future."

Apart from the technical angle, getting started in this field is the same as in most fields, especially if you're interested in starting your own business.

For Joseph Vanacore, managing partner of an information destruction company, the formula is simple. "[Have] a business plan, financing and location to serve," he says.

"Someone can get started in the business by contacting local destruction companies in their area for job opportunities," adds Segall. "The one thing I found out when we were looking into starting our business was that people were very willing to share their experiences and knowledge.

"Depending on the size of market and company, I would think that there would be a need for customer-friendly, caring route drivers, warehouse shredding personnel, administrative staff and/or marketing staff."

You might consider buying a franchise of an existing firm.

"There are franchise opportunities," says Stefenelli. "The larger shredding firms are acquiring smaller companies, as well as franchise owners. There has been a consolidation of the industry in the last three years, especially in the U.S. But I think there is always room for an independent service-oriented provider."

So it sounds like this is a field that is only going to need more and more people in the next few years. According to Bozic, it's a safe bet that's the case. "I would recommend this line of work as stable career opportunity for the future," he says.


National Association for Information Destruction
Representing the information destruction field

International Association of Privacy Professionals
Businesses that work at keeping information private

Storage and Destruction Business
An industry magazine

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