Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Canadian Privacy Commissioner criticizes Staples

The Canadian Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, has found that Staples Canada Inc. failed to fully wipe customer data from returned devices such as laptops, hard drives or USB keys prior to reselling them.
The Staples audit included tests on data storage devices (ie. computers, laptops, USB hard drives and memory cards) that had undergone a "wipe and restore" process and were destined for resale.  Of the 149 data storage devices tested, over one-third (54 devices) still contained customer data - in some cases, highly sensitive personal information such as Social Insurance Numbers, and health card and passport numbers; academic transcripts; banking information and tax records.

This brings a few questions to mind.

Who are these individuals who would return a device to a store, and blindly trust that the store will do what is in their best interest, rather than in the store's best interest.

The privacy commissioner stated that:
...although Staples generally has good privacy practices, it had not met its obligations under Canada's private-sector privacy law with regard to returned data storage devices.

How many organizations have a policy regarding data storage devices, and the safeguards around their disposal?  I would imagine that most do, but that won't protect the individual consumer.

Personally, I'd like to know the policies of a store before returning data storage hardware, such as cell phones (did you wipe the address book before you returned it?), smartphones (same goes for emails), USB drives, laptops, external hard drives, internal hard drives, computers, or memory cards to them.

I'd want to know if they wipe them, a little bit about how they wipe them, and as a purchaser of previously purchased goods, I'd want to know if the device had been checked for viruses and other malware.

And the next time I return hardware to a store, or purchase a previously purchased device, I will ask.