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We have a Rails application hosted by Heroku and using an Heroku Postgres database. Some of the information we store is considered to be sensitive by our users, and we've been asked if we can provide a Certificate of Destruction in the event they wish to delete their account. In other fields (e.g. law) CODs are apparently common practice, issued for instance after sensitive paper documents are shredded or otherwise destroyed.

So I have three questions:

1) When we issue the ActiveResource::Base#destroy command on a record, is the data truly destroyed? We keep backup snapshots with Heroku's PG Backups, so even if the original command truly destroys the data, its probably still in the backups. Without deleting the backups, is it even possible to destroy completely the client's data?

2) Is there an equivalent to a Certificate of Destruction for this purpose?

3) If there is not an equivalent, how have other people mitigated or otherwise assuaged similar client concerns?

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Your business needs the advice of a lawyer, regardless of the advice you may receive here. –  Eric Higgins Mar 7 '13 at 20:16
    
Yes, we've engaged our lawyer on this issue. But I need to relate what is technically possible, practical and common before we can have a meaningful conversation with legal about how we move forward. –  hiattp Mar 7 '13 at 23:50

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1) When we issue the ActiveResource::Base#destroy command on a record, is the data truly destroyed?

Sure not.

We keep backup snapshots with Heroku's PG Backups, so even if the original command truly destroys the data, its probably still in the backups. Without deleting the backups, is it even possible to destroy completely the client's data?

Sure not.

2) Is there an equivalent to a Certificate of Destruction for this purpose?

No. Ask your cloud provider but 99.99% = no.

3) If there is not an equivalent, how have other people mitigated or otherwise assuaged similar client concerns?

Full data layer encryption. Tricky but possible.

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Yep this is basically what Heroku support said as well –  hiattp Dec 29 '13 at 16:46

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