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It seems nowadays we don’t go anywhere without our electronics… But have you ever considered just how much personal information we carry with us each day?
“Over the course of several years there’s a lot of information on there that you don’t even realize is stored on there,” says Jerry Collins, a student at NIACC.
It may be convenient to have access to all that information right at your fingertips, but what happens when you try to get rid of the device itself?
Simply deleting your content or wiping the device is not as reliable as you may think.
“A misconception would be the information stored locally on your device whatever that may be and you delete it, so now you think it’s gone,” says Mike Dirksen.
Technology instructor and all around computer whiz, Dirksen, explains wiping a hard drive clean won’t get you a clear device.
“There isn’t something that actually wipes it, it writes date over it and over it to make sure there’s no lingering 1’s and 0’s sitting out there that could be read by something,” adds Dirksen.
Even if you attempt to erase a computer’s hard drive, some of the data you thought was gone could still be recovered.
That’s why we’re putting Mike to the test.
I brought him two computer hard drives and several cell phones. Some of the devices I brought him were “wiped” and some were just set back to factory settings. All were no longer in use.
“Just a little bit ago I pulled up here and I just started digging and you go in folders, in folders, in folders cause they are there, a lot of it’s gone and you click on something all of a sudden I got into where they stored their WPS files,” he says.
What Mike was able to recover surprised even me…
“This looks like a legitimate document, that’s a legal document,” he said as he showed me the document.
Even a so-called “wiped device” isn’t truly erased. In fact, an act that doesn’t require any technology may be your best bet.
While there are some fairly reliable software out there that will clean off your computer’s hard drive, everyone I talked to said there’s really only one way to make sure all of that information is gone forever… smash it!
“We recommend that people just throw them away or destroy them or recycle them, that’s the problem. Where do they go if you recycle them, I would recommend people just destroy them,” says Sheriff Kevin Pals.
However, throwing your old electronics in the trash may not just be harmful to you…environmentalists say many electronics contain toxic chemicals that can leak into groundwater while sitting in landfills. In Minnesota it’s illegal to throw most electronics in the trash, Iowa has no such ban.
If you don’t want to destroy your hard drive a better option would be to take it to a professional to wipe it. But even that is still not a guarantee.
“Most people try to re-sell them because they’re tired of them and I would recommend that somebody takes them to a professional to get them swiped or wiped out clean,” says Sheriff Pals.
If you do decide to sell or recycle your old electronics just make sure that all the information you want to keep private is off the devices. There will always be the slight risk of your personal information getting into the wrong hands but as long as you’re careful… There is not much else you can do.
“You can’t live in a bubble, I mean if you’re scarred about people getting your information well do ever go on the internet don’t have a cell phone, don’t have a smart phone. I mean any of that stuff, don’t bank online? I mean where do you draw the line?” adds Dirksen.
Now if you’re sitting at home thinking about some old electronics you’d like to get rid of here are your options:
*You can bring them to an electronics recycle drop box. A lot of stores that sell electronics like phones and laptops will also have some sort of recycling program.
*Sell them online. This will probably only benefit you if you have a newer device
*Finally simply throw it away…
Although for you folks in Minnesota, this is not an option due to laws prohibiting you from throwing electronics in the trash.