Headlines: March 6th, 2008

Local councils are not giving enough advice to people who want to recycle their old computers, according to a report today in ‘Computing Which?’ Magazine. The failure, it says, could even lead to data falling into the hands of identity thieves.

The magazine found that people upgrading their equipment do want to recycle old technology. A third of those who took part in a survey said they would find somewhere to recycle it, a further 28 per cent said they would give their unused items to a friend and just 15 per cent said they would take them to the tip.

‘Computing Which?’ contacted a hundred local authorities around the UK to test what advice they gave about recycling technology. One in seven of the councils could not say what would happen to a computer after it was recycled and only 40 per cent of the authorities which said they would recycle a computer could say with certainty that the equipment would actually be recycled. One council worker told the survey, “They just literally go into the landfill. They get smashed apart.”

The majority of councils, the report says did not seem overly concerned or knowledgeable about the security of personal data stored on old computers. Councils in the survey were asked whether data should be deleted before a machine was sent for recycling but the report says replies to this question were vague. In on case an official said this “Shouldn’t be a problem” and another told the researchers, “You can easily uninstall any information.” Both answers, ‘Computing Which? Says, are misleading because a knowledgeable identity thief could easily recover deleted or uninstalled files.

Sarah Kidner, the magazine’s editor, said it was natural for people to look to local councils for help and advice as they usually took he lead on waste disposal but the investigation showed the quality of advice and availability of services varied from one council to the next.