While most of the recent buzz concerning data privacy concerns the way that big tech can sometimes fail to make decent disclosures about rights and censorship, another often overlooked issue is privacy and data security even after a device is discarded.
This, of course, is a top concern for good reason. Much of the hacking debacles of that took place in 2014 revolved around the demand for stolen information infiltrated to the tune of millions of dollars in damage. 2015, too, had its share of data privacy skirmishes. High profile data breaches sparked many to implement top security barriers and measure to keep hackers out, but what are companies doing to ensure that private data is not stolen during recycling?
These days finding a reputable and credible recycler to manage your electronics recycling process can make a huge difference. Despite the related high risks, many are still sending their electronic waste to landfills rather than collecting it for proper recycling.
That might be because they’re either unaware of recyclers in the area or they are not sure that the local recycler is certified. When it comes to e-waste recycling, certification is essential to ensure that recyclers do their job according to third party oversight designed to keep them in compliance. Most certification programs are made of specialized boards that hold recyclers to high standards.
One excellent way to ensure that sensitive data isn’t compromised or retrievable after sending electronics away for recycling is to engage in what’s known as data wiping. This is the shorthand term for overwriting the hard disk in a way that information is permanently useless afterwards.
Data wiping can get extremely sophisticated, and it should. Modern times have brought on a multitude ways of getting around sloppy data wiping jobs to retrieve information that owners thought they’d erased for good. Encryption and degaussing, a method for removing data by passing the hard disk through a magnetic field are also ways to prevent post-recycling retrieval.
Data destruction is the most crucial aspect of electronic recycling especially for those who handle sensitive information but still want to discard their electronic devices the right way. However, not just any data destruction will suffice. That’s because even when a device reaches the end of its life cycle and hard drives are wiped, it’s possible to retrieve data through clandestine methods. Additionally, data remanence means that some information, albeit in obscure form, can still remain.
Data destruction takes data wiping one step further to destroy the physical storage media of an electronic device rendering it unusable for future purposes. So far only one electronics recycling company offers guaranteed data destruction, but others are sure to follow the trend. Be sure to find recyclers that offer a certificate of destruction showing that the device has in fact been processed for destruction of the storage media as part of the recycling process.
Encryption seems to be in the news quite a bit lately. It may be one of the only efficient methods to aid in the fight against data breaches, hacking and general snooping without consent. It can also be useful in terms of preserving data privacy on devices sent for recycling.
When data is encrypted before it’s stored, only an encryption key can unlock its contents. This means that erasing encrypted data can be as simple as getting rid of (overwriting) the key – a wise method of removing data permanently when a device has reached the end of its life cycle.
Sometimes the the best way to ensure that your data is safe after discarding it is to talk with the experts.
The sustainable recycling issue has more to do with the long-term efficiency of the recycling process than with the costs and benefits of recycling itself, but it’s just as viable a question. Mainly, it means paying sharp attention to whether the methods, processes and efforts involved in recycling, which in itself is an environmentally sound principle, are equally environmentally sound.
It is certainly easy to see what happens when the process of recycling is not environmentally sound and sustainable. For example, a recycling process involving the use of an excessive amount of energy or involving the use of an excessive amount of fossil fuels such as oil and gas for transport to other countries could have the effect of nullifying the entire effort to recycle and its positive benefits.
As the e-waste across nations reaches epic proportions, it’s important to examine the relevant threats such proliferation poses for the environment and for adults and children. The following is a brief list of essential facts about lead in e-waste, highlighting potential, and present, dangers.
1. Toxic e-waste substances, lead included, can leach into the soil of local communities.
Leaching has long been a huge problem associated with improper disposal of e-waste. When electronics are tossed into landfills, leaching can join forces with other sources of lead contamination in soil (i.e. pesticide runoff). Such cumulative effects of lead contamination are so intense that the use of sandboxes for play among children (rather than regular soil) and suggests removing shoes before entering the house in order to avoid bringing in lead-ridden dust from outside.
2. Lead in improperly disposed e-waste can also contaminate groundwater.
Lead from industry pollution and pesticide runoff can contaminate groundwater by leaching from contaminated sources. It’s safe to say, considering the amount of lead in e-waste, that it, too, has the potential to build up in soils over time and could create dangerous cumulative effects resulting in lead contaminated groundwater.
3. Nearly all electronics contain some amount of lead.
In 2004, studies revealed that 12 different types of electronics each leached lead into soils at rates that exceed regulations in a study testing the leachate potential of various electronic devices. These included electronics common in most households – computers, keyboard mice, mobile phones, smoke alarms and remote controls. Additionally, cathode ray tubes, found in most computer monitors and televisions, contain large amounts of lead.
The prevalence of lead and other contaminants in electronics and e-waste has sparked a push for electronics manufacturers to ensure their products are not harmful to the environment by taking “cradle to grave” responsibility. In many cases, electronics manufacturers offer recycling for their products when consumers ship them back.
4. E-waste exposed areas are at higher risk for lead contamination, especially among children.
Though studies outlining the exact effects of lead in e-waste may be few and far between, the fact that e-waste does have significant potential to contribute to air, water, and soil contamination is mounting with each finding.
5. Electronics recycling helps improve the effects of e-waste lead contamination through.
When e-waste is properly disposed through safe and effective recycling methods, the chances that hazardous lead levels will affect surrounding communities decreases.