Information overload leads to offload

When I was setting up this blog, I read lots of advice on blogging, and a common recommendation was to make connections, with bloggers strongly advised to make links to other blogs and posts of various sorts.  Of course this will result ultimately in a closed circle, like the snake swallowing its own tail, and I fear that I may have made a very tight circle: on this blog I frequently recommend “Money Laundering Bulletin”, and they reproduce this blog on their website.  And now I want to discuss something I have read on that website – so I’ll be blogging about their website in a post that will be appearing on their website.  If the servers at MLB Mansions collapse in a cloud of smoke, it’s probably my fault.

So just what is it that has caught my eye?  Well, it’s the news that the Serious Organised Crime Agency will be spring-cleaning its database, and throwing out all the SARs that are too small (even if they go on a diet) or so unfashionable that only Lady Gaga would wear them more than six years old.  Yes: deleting SARs.  You can read it for yourself here – please add your own sad head-shaking and tooth-sucking.  It’s all the fault of data protection, of course – people being worried about their information being held when it’s no longer needed.  Yes, these are the same people who discuss their business in a loud voice on a mobile phone in public areas, and throw away their bank statements without shredding them, and buy everything online without checking for the padlock symbol, but there you go.

Being something of a neat-freak myself, I can appreciate that the occasional tidying might be required.  But what worries me is the contradiction in the numbers.  Apparently the Big Purge will remove 600,000 SARs by the end of 2011 – a third of the contents of the ELMER database.  Yet the current estimate is that 0.5% of SARs on ELMER are “not linked to any criminality”.  So the vast majority of the third marked for dumping are actually linked to criminality – they’re just a bit dusty.  Ageism, that’s what it is.  But seriously, how often are we telling staff that any piece of information is valuable – it might not be used immediately but somewhere down the line it might be a vital piece of the puzzle?  Now SOCA is saying that if they can’t solve the puzzle within six years, forget it.  Let me think: aren’t Russians Berezovsky and Abramovich tussling in court today over transactions which took place between 1995 and 2000?

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