Lawmaker:  Machines a Potential ‘Treasure Trove’ for Identity Thieves

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and co-Chairman of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, today sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Jon Leibowitz urging the Commission to investigate the retention of documents on the hard drives of digital copy machines, which potentially enable thieves to view Social Security numbers, private medical and bank records and other sensitive documents stored on the drives.
A recent investigation by CBS News found that nearly every copy machine manufactured since 2002 contains a digital hard drive that functions like a computer hard drive, storing an image of every document, scanned, copied or emailed by the copy machine. These machines often are leased and subsequently returned after the lease period for further usage by other individuals or companies. The CBS investigation found that many copier hard drives are not wiped clean of the documents stored on them after they are returned or otherwise disposed of, allowing individuals – including identity thieves and other criminals - to access the sensitive and private information and use it to commit identity theft or other crimes.

  “I am very concerned that these copy machines can be a treasure trove for identity thieves, allowing criminals to easily access highly sensitive personal information,” said Markey.

Thousands of Americans make copies of sensitive information every day, completely unaware that the data is stored on a copy machine hard drive and then often never cleared when the machine is resold or disposed of. Just as you wouldn’t leave a paper copy of your bank statement sitting on top of the office copy machine, a digital copy should not remain inside of it.

I urge the FTC to immediately investigate this matter and encourage the Commission to pursue measures to provide consumers with additional information about the privacy risks associated with the use of digital copiers for copying sensitive information and the steps consumers can take to reduce these risks.  Companies and government agencies also should be responsible stewards of personal information, ensuring that any personal information is wiped clean before the copier moves on to the next user,” Rep. Markey concluded.

A full copy of Markey’s letter to the FTC can be found here




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