Professional Liability – How Donating Your Old Computers to Charity Could Bankrupt Your Business

September 1, 2013

As a professional, you understand that the personal data entrusted to you by clients, patients, and customers is extremely sensitive. You always handle that data with great care. It is part of your success.

When your computers need to be replaced, you dutifully delete all client data from every device and, because you are an involved citizen, you find a good charitable organization to which you can donate the used devices. The folks at the local animal shelter and the Salvation Army appreciate your gift and everybody lives happily ever after. Right?


Even though you have deleted information on your computer’s hard drive, you should know that the data is still there, and can be accessed with little or no difficulty by those unsavory types who have made identity theft a huge success worldwide. If you have donated used equipment without having the hard-drives professionally wiped, you are playing Russian roulette with the identities of your clients. Think of the liability!

A World Wide Network of Thugs

It is important to understand that the business of extracting data from used and discarded electronic devices, including copy machines, is a big one. All around the world the process of gathering up hard drives and selling the internal data to criminals is ongoing. In some third world countries like India, there are vast salvage operations, where old computers are regularly delivered, disemboweled, and dissected. The pieces and parts, including the heavy metals and toxins, are exposed to the environment and the people, including children, whose livelihoods depend upon their data mining efforts.

It is a simple process. People buy up used computers and sell them to innocent sounding advertisers who buy the old devices. The devices are loaded onto shipping containers and sent to the aforementioned salvage yards where the hard drives are extracted. Ultimately, the information finds its way into the hands of identity thieves. The rest is history.

America’s #1 Personal Crime

As a crime, identity theft has surpassed auto theft and burglary as the most costly crime against individuals in the United States. Once the bad guys get your personal information, you are apt to be subsidizing flying lessons for drug cartel members and exotic vacations for other mobsters. People in this country spend countless thousands of dollars attempting to recover their identities and undo the damage inflicted upon their credit worthiness. Some folks never succeed in getting out from under the weight of this crime.

And, just think. You might be facilitating the problem.

Take Extra Measures

It is not a great reach to imagine your company as the Defendant in litigation brought by a client or customer who has been victimized. If your negligent handling of those used computers brought about that victimization, a jury could find you at fault.  It only makes sense for you to be certain that all devices are squeaky clean before you donate your used equipment (an excellent idea, by the way.) Call a reputable computer data recovery company and ask them how to make certain that data is thoroughly expunged from your devices before you put them in the hands of someone else.