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 released a letter from Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Jon Leibowitz responding to Rep. Markey’s recent call for an investigation into 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.
“Many of these machines do not just copy sensitive documents; they store them as well, providing a treasure trove for identity thieves. In short, these machines are not merely document copiers, they are document keepers.
“I am very pleased to learn that the FTC is investigating this important matter, which most consumers are unaware of when they place their tax returns, financial records and other personal information on the copier and hit the ‘Start’ button.
“I am also pleased to learn that the FTC is reaching out to copier manufacturers and resellers to ensure that all parties are aware of the privacy risks associated with digital copiers while helping to educate the public about this important issue ,” said Rep. Markey.
“A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in this case, these images could cost consumers thousands of dollars if they were victims of identity theft. I look forward to continuing to work with the FTC as it proceeds with its important activities.”
In the letter Rep. Markey released today, the FTC said it was “concerned that personal information can be so easily retrieved from copiers” and said it would work with copier manufacturers to ensure they provide appropriate educational materials on this subject to their clients.
The FTC response also indicated that the Commission is reaching out to government contracting officials to advise them of the risks associated with the use of digital copiers and ensure that the government is taking measures to protect the information it collects from the public.
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.
A full copy of the FTC response to Markey can be found here: http://markey.house.gov/docs/markeyftc.pdf
A full copy of Markey’s letter to the FTC can be found here http://markey.house.gov/docs/ftccopier_security4-29-10.pdf
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