Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Keep Your Data Safe When You Recycle Your Electronics

I look forward to the electronics recycling events.  Like everyone else I don't like the idea of just throwing away old cell phones, chargers, cruise card transponders, etc.  So they pile up in my office until a recycling drive comes along and I can drop them off.

There are several things that I hesitate to drop however:  computer hard drives.  The "delete" key is not all-powerful.  With the right software data can be retrieved.  Anything personal on your drive could potentially be reconstructed.

That's not just external hard drives.  Scanners, fax machines, copy machines (like at FedEx Kinkos) home office all-in-ones all have hard drives in them and they all save all of their images of documents copied.  Like your tax returns, drivers' license, etc.

When you recycle anything with a hard drive, make sure you destroy it.  Computer hardware specialists should know how to remove the hard drives from your peripherals.  Plait Solutions, LLC who I believe are based around Alpharetta held a recycling drive in October.  The owner boasted of bringing a power drill and sledge hammer to ensure that all hard drives were inoperable.  An industrial electric magnet will do the job too.

Finally, cross-check the recycler's certification.  Make sure they actually recycle the heavy metals and other non-dump-worthy content as they say they do.  A few years ago 60 Minutes did a report on an electronics recycler who lied through their teeth, claiming to safely recycle electronics in the USA but were actually dumping them into an environmental nightmare in China.  I hope this was just an exception but I can't get this episode out of my head.  Best to make sure that you and the recycler are on the same page with how to dispose of e-waste before you start.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too remember the horrifying story about the toxic dump in China. It was some time ago - wonder if anything has changed? Is it still there? We are still such a long way from properly disposing all the crap we just have to have.