On May 11, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission responded to a letter previously submitted by Congressman Edward Markey which voiced concern over privacy risks relating to digital copiers.
Mr. Markey’s letter cited a previously aired CBS News investigative report into digital copier hard drives. The CBS investigation noted that almost every digital copier manufactured after 2002 contains a hard drive which stores an image of every document copied, scanned or emailed. In the course of their investigation CBS was able to download tens of thousands of documents from four used copy machines which they purchased at a warehouse, using a free software program available on the Internet.Among the documents downloaded were personal medical records from a New York insurance company, domestic violence complaints and targets of a drug raid from the Buffalo Police Department and pay stubs containing names, addresses and social security numbers from a New York construction company.Mr. Markey’s letter had voiced concern that the hard drives “represent a treasure trove for thieves, leaving unwitting consumers vulnerable to identity theft as their Social Security number, birth certificate, medical records, bank records and other personal information are exposed to individuals who could easily extract the data from the digital copier’s hard drive and use it for criminal purposes.
Jon Leibowitz, the Chairman of the FTC, stated in the response letter that the FTC was also concerned about the ease with which personal information could be retrieved from digital copier hard drives. Mr. Leibowitz noted that “businesses and government agencies should ensure that the information on the hard drives in digital copiers are wiped clean of personal information after the conclusion of use. “ The letter further indicated that the FTC has reached out to copier manufactures, resellers and retail copy and office supply stores to raise awareness of the privacy risks and is also looking into opportunities to provide relevant information to consumers through educational materials.