FTC to investigate photocopier security risks

Posted by Emma Woollacott

It's a hideous thought: all over the world, every time some idiot photocopies their butt, the image is stored for posterity.

According to the FTC, which is looking into the issue, the majority of photocopiers store all scanned images, forever. And while all those rear ends may not be pleasant, it's more sensitive information that really concerns the Commission.

The technology could potentially enable thieves to view Social Security numbers, private medical and bank records and other sensitive documents when old photocopiers are thrown away or leased ones are returned.

"Many of these machines do not just copy sensitive documents; they store them as well, providing a treasure trove for identity thieves. In short, these machines are not merely document copiers, they are document keepers," says Representative Edward J Markey (D-Mass), who first raised the issue with the FTC.

  "I am very pleased to learn that the FTC is investigating this important matter, which most consumers are unaware of when they place their tax returns, financial records and other personal information on the copier and hit the 'Start' button."

The FTC is promising to raise Markey's concerns with manufacturers and make sure they educate their clients.

It says government information is safe. In a letter to Markey, FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz wrote: "With respect to government agencies, our own practice is to acquire ownership of the hard drives in the digital copiers we lease, and to erase and subsequently destroy these hard drives when the copiers are returned."