As the world embraces a more collaborative way of working and uses new applications like Slack to communicate with one another, there is a corollary impact on other areas of the business such as how does legal determine retention and deletion policies to effectively manage risk.
If you can get in trouble for deleting information that you should have kept, why on earth would you delete anything? Why not just keep all of your messages and their associated files in Slack? As long as you’re using any paid version of Slack—whether that’s the Standard, Plus, or Enterprise Grid version—Slack will retain all of your messages, forever, at no additional cost to you. So, what’s the downside?
Some corporate data is useful to keep around for years. Most of it, though—the everyday working information and communications between team members—is like the bag of asparagus you tucked away in the crisper drawer and then forgot all about: it’s good for a while, but when it gets to be out of date, there’s no place for it but the bin.
That outdated data creates a number of real, and potentially very costly, risks. First, there are the practical concerns with retaining outdated information:
Beyond that, though, keeping redundant or obsolete information around forever is a huge problem for ediscovery. Every time you have a court case, you’re obligated to sort through all of your messages so that you can identify any potentially relevant, discoverable content. That means that the more messages you have, the longer your ediscovery process is going to take, and the more it’s going to cost. Plus, what if you find messages from years ago that cast your case or your defense in a bad light? If you had deleted those messages before your obligation to preserve them arose, that would have been fine. But once you have a legal duty to hold onto that information, you can’t get rid of them. You have to turn them over to the other side—and deal with whatever damage they cause.
Here’s one final point: say you have a standard record retention policy that says you’ll delete all Slack messages after 90 days. If someone asks for records from 93 days ago, there’s nothing suspicious about you not having those records. They’re outdated, so they’re gone. But if you never delete records, and then suddenly someone deletes a slew of Slack messages around the same time that you hear about a potential court case—well, it would be easy for a court to construe that activity as intentionally deleting evidence that you should have turned over to the other side.