A database built to hold the fingerprints and personal details of millions of ID card holders has today been publicly destroyed. Around 500 hard disk drives and 100 back up tapes containing the details of 15,000 holders have been magnetically wiped and shredded. They will soon be incinerated in an environmentally friendly waste-for-energy process. [Home Office, 10 Feb 2011]
This story - the decommissioning of the ID Card database - immediately reminded me of Derrida and Freud. Bravo, Home Office. But here's one of the problems with data, databases and assurance: when the data itself is intangible and easily copiable, it's hard to evidence its destruction with any certainty. You might essay a metonymic evocation of the database with the material the data was stored on (and here's another example) or hold up a talisman:
And then you'd need to destroy them again with a purifying flame, rendering pieces of disk platter jewellery into smoke: "They will soon be incinerated in an environmentally friendly waste-for-energy process."
Freud might call that the governmental mute death drive, attempting to destroy memory's archive, but without leaving any archival trace of its own (see Derrida on Freud, Archive Fever, 10). But the remainders are cinders or shadows, the ghost of the archive, smoke from its incineration, memory of the identity carte postale, and a new archive is immediately created.