Did you know that some copying machines have hard drives and store digital copies of the copies they have made? Or that the hard drives could even contain 25,000 copies that have been made? Copier + Hard Drive: A Dangerous Combination.
Lawyers are used to discovering e-mail, but now what about using discovery to find copies that a opposing party made over time? Wouldn’t you like to be at your opponent’s office and see the originals of all the copies that were being made?
Well, now, fortunately — or unfortunately — you might be able to.
Here are some details from a data erasing company:
Modern copy machines and printers have a similar hard drive to those found in PCs and laptops. These machines automatically store any document that has been printed or copied on the hard drive. This means that copy machines and printers may contain sensitive data on the hard drive which must be destroyed. This is often an overlooked security issue which could result in a data breach.
Usually when several copies of a document are needed, the document is scanned just once and the copies are made from the file that has been saved on the hard disk. The data can be accessed by removing the hard drive from the printer or copy machine and connecting it to a PC or an erasure station. There are no existing standards which state how the data on these devices should be permanently removed however the same measures must be practiced as when erasing computer hard drives.
In fact, I was recently speaking with an attorney and she said her husband’s firm had a computer technician come in and erase the drives on their computers.
For more information, see Copiers Present Risk for Identity Theft. And also see and hear Kim Komando (that’s her real name) of the Kim Komando Show. She recommends that when you get rid of an old copier insist that the hard drive be removed in your presence and — given to you for your disposal. (I first heard of the hard drive issue from one of her audio postings.)
Addendum: After writing this post, I realized that some fax machines retain digital versions of faxes that have either been sent or received. That’s another source of both ethics problems and discovery opportunities.