Electronic Recycling and Protecting Sensitive Data

Teresa Madaleno

A few years ago a number of different online news sites started talking about thieves stealing information from electronic gadgets that were tossed aside in favour of shiny new versions. This sent some individuals into a panic. After all, devices such as computers and phones contain a ton of sensitive and confidential information.

While the reaction of some was to hoard their old devices by keeping them in a drawer or cupboard, others began to turn to e-waste operations to dispose of their out-dated electronics. Hoarding is just a bad idea since it puts you at risk. There is no guarantee the electronics won’t make it into the wrong hands or end up in the trash. If that were to happen, you would be exposing yourself to dumpster-diving data thieves. Gizmodo, the popular technology news site pointed out that when it comes to recycling electronics people have to understand that not all e-waste companies are what you would call reputable. You want to be certain that when you get rid of an old smart phone, laptop, iPad or tablet by sending it to an e-waste facility, the devices are scrubbed clean of your personal information.

When an e-waste job went wrong back in 2006, a company in Idaho discovered that sensitive corporate data ended up on e-Bay. As it turns out, the salvage vendor didn’t do any scrubbing. To add to the problem, there are data thieves who pose as e-waste companies.

So what do you do? Well, e-waste recycling is still the best route but make sure it is a reputable company that guarantees wiping your devices clean and/or commits to completely destroying the electronic device. Complete destruction means that there is no trace of memory or hard drive to steal from.

Sam Kazemeini heads up Sparta’s ReECO Tech™ Electronic Conversions division, ERS International, in Toronto. This is what he had to say when I met with him recently: “Security is the number one priority at our facility. This means security inside and outside our premises, a full security team on site, controlled key access, closed circuit camera monitoring around the clock and destruction of sensitive data within our maximum security areas.”

Kazemeini contends that the company has built a reputation on trust; that securing their client’s electronics and preventing sensitive data from getting into the wrong hands is what has helped them secure long-term contracts with many well-known companies.

If your company is thinking about e-waste here is what you should consider:
Evaluate your needs – assess the sources of e-waste in your operation. Making a list of the types of e-waste you commonly produce can be helpful for that first discussion with an e-waste recycler. Do you have finished products like laptops and televisions or accessories, such as batteries or power cords? This becomes important information since some recyclers charge for disposal of certain items but compensate for other items.
Ask about environmental approach – Check out the recyclers certifications, ask about their compliance department, including whether or not they have a compliance expert on site.
Discuss data security – you don’t want to worry about data being shared or misused and should not assume that personal information will be wiped so ask questions about the recycler’s data destruction policies.

The relationship you build with your e-waste recycler can actually bring you a lot of relief when you do a little bit of homework and choose an established, well-respected operation. With your electronics in the hands of a trustworthy recycler, there is no need to worry about a data breach.