How to Handle Data When Recycling Electronics

Throughout service, electronics acquire quite a bit of data about their owners. They have passwords, photos, search histories, and more stored in their memories. Unfortunately, unsavory people would use all this data once the device leaves its owner for a recycling operation or landfill. Recycling electronics shouldn’t carry this risk though, and there are steps to prevent it.

Smartphone Cyber Security Image by Biljana Jovanovic from Pixabay
Device Wipe

The modern digital device has a few data safety features. One of these is a device wipe or factory reset option. Upon activating this option, the device returns to its factory default. This means all the data is scrambled, not deleted though. This is a hazard when recycling electronics.

With a factory reset, all the information is still there, but the addresses telling the device where to look are removed. There is software available that takes this address-less data and figure out what went where. This means whoever ends up with the device could access anything from contacts to pictures if they have less than pure intentions.

Hard Drive Removal

Devices, particularly computers, are all about expandable memory. These expansions are removable, and on larger devices like computers, the whole memory is too. In the event the memory is accessible, the owner can pull it out before disposal.

With this method, the device owner keeps control of the data. However, the data owner must store their data responsibly to avoid theft later. It’s also possible to lose data over time or misplace how to access it. However, holding onto ownership is a fantastic way to ensure privacy when recycling electronics.

Hard Drive Destruction

One of the best ways to maintain data privacy is to destroy the memory of devices prior to recycling electronics. This destruction of memory and hard drives is a physical task, and then the pieces need disposal separately. Without this separation, at some point in the future parts might become accessible.

Hard drive destruction annihilates the data. Brute force can theoretically carry out the goal, but it makes recycling the device harder. Instead, there are machines designed to destroy hard drives.

A respectable recycler will allow the previous owner to watch the destruction or supply written guarantee it will happen.

Responsible Recyclers

There are a lot of electronics recycling options available, both in person and on the web. Each of them offers a similar service, taking old electronic devices like computers and repurposing the elements in the components. However, some companies are more scrupulous than others.

Companies who choose to become certified through the R2 or e-Stewards programs receive regular audits. They follow rigorous standards for recycling, customer service, and safe working conditions. Since they maintain these certifications, their data handling is also codified.

While there are several options for handling data when it comes to recycling electronics, the top method is to stay vigilant. Some folks love to get their hands-on strangers’ data, and they can dramatically upset lives. Take some time, do some research, and choose the methods of data handling that work in a specific scenario.

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