Staples Business Depot, the office supplies store chain, was fingered by the office of Canada’s Privacy Commissioner in a recent report. The report details findings that Staples was reselling returned laptops and digital devices without properly wiping customer data off them. The breach of Canadian privacy law meant consumers’ personal information was exposed in many of the tested devices. Tests were done as part of the audit across the country and customer information was found in 15 of 17 stores reviewed. The privacy commissioner made recommendations on wiping customer data to the company and warned that customer data was at risk until Staples started to meet its obligations.
Consumers and their data have been threatened by this sort of risk for awhile now. Data on hard drives inside computers, laptops, and even mobile storage devices like smartphones and USB flash media is at risk of ‘falling into the wrong hands’ when you part ways with them. Another case we recently highlighted here on Platter Chatter was the State of New Jersey found to be auctioning off computers with tons of private records still on them. In today’s Staples case the sort of data found on the returned laptops was things like tax filings, passport information and social insurance numbers, and even documents like academic transcripts. The amount of data we produce in this day and age is enormous, so even owning a laptop for a short while leaves a trail of personal information. Sensitive information continues to be a growing target of thieves and criminal activity due to the usefulness of personal identity information. The risk of data being leaked on computer systems in everywhere from the retails industry to the public sector remains high due to the regular practice of reselling or auctioning off previously used equipment.
The challenge of protecting your personal information is a big one because you don’t know what hands your devices and storage media will pass through after you discard it, but you can take precautions before they get returned, recycled, resold, or refurbished. Check out our free disk wipe utility, CBL Data Shredder if you have concerns and want to securely delete data off a hard drive. These sorts of privacy and security concerns won’t be going away any time soon as Canada’s privacy commissioner finds in annual audits, but taking action to safeguard your information where you can is a good idea.