Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tech Column: Kinko's Keeps a Copy of Everything You Copy

by Bill Adler

I like writing about technology problems that have solutions, and when it comes to privacy and technology, there are steps you can take to help ensure that your personal information remains with you and you alone. You can set your web browser to reject cookies so that web sites have a harder time storing information about you. You can use advanced privacy plug-ins for your browser such as Better Privacy for Firefox, which blocks normally unblockable cookies, and PasswordFail for Chrome, which tells you if a website stores passwords in plain text, rather than encrypted, as they should.You can even block flash cookies, which are notorious for tracking Internet users from website to website.

And while I'm writing this brief introduction to this column on what may be the most insidious privacy problem that we face, let me suggest that you search for "privacy" for whatever browser you use.  Whether it's Opera, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or another:  Find and install those add-ons that get good reviews and that improve your comfort level when it comes to online activity and what websites can know about you.

Here's the problem that we can't do anything about. Office copiers have hard drives that store a copy of every single piece of paper that runs through them. Everything. When these copiers are sold as used, or disposed of, along with them goes every image that they've seen. From police departments the used copiers have arrest reports; from insurance companies, the copiers have medical information; from businesses, personnel information, including social security numbers. While it's possible to encrypt the hard drive that these copiers have, that process costs $500 and most companies don't bother. After all, who thinks about photocopier security? Apparently, very few people.

Have you ever copied your tax return at Kinko's? If you did, you left a copy behind on that machine's hard drive.

Where do these used copiers end up? Some get sold to businesses, and more than a handful get packed up on shipped to foreign shores.

CBS did an investigative report on copier security. It's eye-opening and frightening. And as a consumer, there's nothing we can do about it. We have to rely on business and government to do the right thing and encrypt or delete the copier data.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, there is something to do, ask a question of the store owner about the security of the machine. If they don't know or don't care to tell you then make sure you report that to the better business and report the same to a neighborhood email list