How Shredding Evolved from Espionage to Everyday Use

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Closeup image of a file folder labeled "Secrets" in a file drawer

Imagine an American, a Canadian, and an Italian strolling into a bar—not for laughs, but to settle a dispute on who invented the telephone. While the origins of the phone remain a historical enigma, there’s another invention with an equally-intriguing evolution: the paper shredder.

A Peek into History

In the annals of invention, Abbott Augustus Low secured the first patent for a paper shredder way back in 1909. Unfortunately, fate intervened, and his invention never saw the light of day due to his untimely demise. Fast forward to 1935, when German citizen Adolf Ehinger drew inspiration from a humble hand-crank pasta maker to develop the concept of a paper shredder. But Ehinger’s motivations weren’t culinary; they were political. Faced with the rise of Nazism, he sought a way to discreetly dispose of anti-Nazi leaflets.

From Espionage to Mainstream Adoption

Post-World War II, Ehinger capitalized on the constant threat of espionage by marketing his electric shredder to governments and financial institutions. With espionage lurking around every corner, these entities eagerly embraced the technology to safeguard sensitive information from prying eyes.

A watershed moment in the paper shredder’s journey occurred in 1979 during the Iranian hostage crisis. As chaos engulfed the United States Embassy in Tehran, embassy staff scrambled to destroy classified documents using rudimentary paper shredders. However, their efforts were in vain, as skilled Iranian carpet weavers were employed to meticulously reconstruct the shredded documents, laying bare America’s secrets.

Lessons Learned

The Iranian hostage crisis underscored crucial lessons about document disposal, prompting a shift in attitude towards shredding, including the knowledge that:

  • Shredded Documents Can Be Reconstructed: The Tehran debacle revealed the vulnerability of strip-shredded documents to reconstruction. To thwart such efforts, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) disposal rule mandates the thorough destruction of confidential information. Shredding emerges as the preferred method, offering a cost-effective solution to safeguarding sensitive data.
  • Thieves Will Proactively Search Your Garbage: Dumpster diving isn’t a myth; it’s a reality exploited by identity thieves. To prevent your discarded documents from becoming a treasure trove for criminals, adopt a shred-all policy and refrain from DIY shredding.

Securing the Future

In the modern landscape, shredding isn’t just for governments and corporations; it’s a cornerstone of personal and business security. With NAID AAA Certification, CI Information Management stands at the forefront, offering secure commercial and residential shredding services to protect both individuals and organizations from the perils of identity theft. With our comprehensive solutions, we ensure that your shredded material remains irretrievable, safeguarding your privacy and peace of mind.

We serve a wide area of Washington State from our Kennewick location. To strengthen your defenses against identity theft, call us at 509-586-6090 or complete the form on this page to learn more about our compliant shredding services.