Earth Day is Personal - Protect Your Planet to Protect Your Data
Many states have data breach laws that protect consumers from healthcare providers, credit card companies, or banks being irresponsible with their personal data. If your bank has a lax corporate data security policy, they will be required to admit their sins. But, what is your personal data security policy? We don’t have government regulators requiring we handle our personal data responsibly. We alone are responsible for having a data security strategy.
I have been reading with great interest my colleagues’ blogs about Earth Day and I invite you to take our Earth Day 2012 Survey as well to add your voice as we measure awareness, attitudes, and opinions. Whether you see Earth Day as an opportunity, a “Holy Day for Sustainability”, or a concept to be celebrated every day, let me give you a different perspective on April 22nd. Let if also be a day where you protect your personal electronic data.
I’ve looked at the statistics. Only about 25% of all electronics is recycled properly and e-waste is the single fastest growing municipal waste stream. In 2007 we disposed of over 41 million laptop and desktop computers. That was before smartphones and tablets, which combined outsold personal computers by 40% in 2012. (Where do you think all those replaced computers are going to end up?) According to the EPA, in 2009, only 38% of retired computers were recycled. How much personal data was on the other 62%?
While I cringe at the prospect of millions of pounds of e-waste not being properly handled; what I find equally disturbing is the idea of so much personal information being exposed. In 2003, Tom Spring of PC World talked to scavengers who frequented a Needham, Massachusetts dump. He found data on 9 out of 10 drives purchased from scavengers. As I hit the send button to file my taxes electronically, I wonder how many of you out there have done this in past years on old computers that weren’t recycled properly.
If preservation of our planet isn’t enough motivation for you to properly handle your electronics at end-of-life, then protecting yourself ought to be. Even if you aren’t necessarily having your data erased prior to recycling; the recycling process itself will ensure that your personal information goes no further.
As much as Earth Day has done to raise awareness about environmental issues and personal accountability; we need extend those attitudes and behaviors towards the protecting of our personal electronic information. While the focus of this conversation is end of life; this applies to application of software patches to close known threats, and being aware when someone is asking for a username or password. If we’re going to take advantage of the benefits of technology, we must be good stewards in all aspects. Proper end of life handling of our electronics is personal on multiple levels.
Let me know how you’ve applied the concepts of Earth Day in your daily living. What has been your greatest aha moment when it comes to disposing of all those gadgets and the data they contain? I look forward to hearing from you.