I remember the days of the mimeograph. In class people would inevitably sniff the newly printed pages. For a teacher, the danger was that the latent copy would fall into the wrong hands. Animal House highlighted that danger.
Current day copiers are much more advanced than the mimeograph, but the dangers of the latent copy still exist. Most modern copy machines are just special purpose computers. Like all computer they have a hard drive. On that hard drive, they store the images of the documents they copy and scan.
That’s not a problem until you give back the copier. Then you should be concerned that the next person who gets it could just pull up some of your documents from the hard drive. Last year, CBS highlighted this problem in an investigative piece by Armen Keteyian: Digital Photocopiers Loaded With Secrets.
Now the Federal Trade Commission has decided to take a stance. Not a definitive stance, but guidance. The FTC points out that companies must maintain reasonable procedures to protect sensitive information. That may include your copy machine.
When you finish using the copier:
Check with the manufacturer, dealer, or servicing company for options on securing the hard drive. The company may offer services that will remove the hard drive and return it to you, so you can keep it, dispose of it, or destroy it yourself. Others may overwrite the hard drive for you. Typically, these services involve an additional fee, though you may be able to negotiate for a lower cost if you are leasing or buying a new machine.
- FTC’s Copier Data Security: A Guide for Businesses
- FTC Publishes Copier Data Security Guide by Colin J. Zick in Foley Hoag’s Security, Privacy and The Law
- Digital Photocopiers Loaded With Secrets