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Paper Shredders Finally get some Respect

Rodney Dangerfield was a comedian who was famous for the phrase, “I don’t get no respect!”

Like Dangerfield, paper shredders got no respect for a long time, being considered primarily a tool for destroying evidence and covering up crimes. But in recent years, the paper shredder has gained respect as a tool for preventing crimes.

Most people didn’t even know such a thing as a paper shredder existed until the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s, when Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein revealed the shocking news that G. Gordon Liddy, one of the people involved in the break-in of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters, had used “the biggest paper shredder in the offices of the Committee for the Re-election of [President Richard Nixon]” to destroy incriminating evidence.

In 1986, Lt. Colonel Oliver North, while employed by the National Security Council, shredded files and documents that allegedly would have provided evidence in the Iran-Contra scandal.

In 2002, Enron executives were accused of using a paper shredder to destroy evidence in the scandal that brought down the company.

And in 2003, Sandy Berger, a former top aide to President Bill Clinton, stole secret government documents from the National Archives. He admitted to cutting up some of the documents with scissors, although some reports said he used a paper shredder.

The tide started turning for the public’s perception of paper shredders in 1998, when the United States Supreme Court, in the case of California v. Greenwood, decided that a person has no expectation of privacy to the garbage that they leave outside for the trash collector to pick up. After that decision, many ordinary citizens decided to shred their personal papers before putting the papers in the trash in order to prevent other people from taking them.

The popularity of personal paper shredders has also grown in recent years due to the rise in identity theft, as reports show that these crimes are most often committed by people who use stolen bank statements and other personal documents. In June 0f 2005, in order to protect people from identity theft, the federal government enacted the nation's first shredding law, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act, which requires businesses that handle consumer data to destroy all documents that include personal information contained or derived from a credit report.

Today, a wide variety of paper shredders is available on the market. The least expensive is the strip cut shredder, which cuts narrow strips down the length of the document. The problem with this method is that the strips are relatively easy to piece back together. Cross cut shredders, although more expensive, are the most popular type of shredder for home and office use. These shredders have blades that cut in two directions, creating small, confetti-like pieces that are much more difficult to piece back together. You can also get shredders that will destroy credit cards, cardboard, floppy disks, CDs and other magnetic media.

About the Author: Independent Author in Thailand

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