E-waste recycling push raises concerns of personal data security

I am heartened by the private sector's commitment to protecting the environment through the expansion of the REcycling Nation's Electronic Waste (Renew) programme, allowing consumers to easily recycle their e-waste (Four retailers hop on board e-waste recycling scheme; June 6).

However, while promoting a culture of e-waste recycling is indeed helpful, I am deeply concerned about the lack of security for these bins.

Each Renew bin comes with a padlock attached to prevent theft of the contents within.

However, the bin's wide mouth, while allowing for easy disposal of all kinds of electronic devices, makes it easy for anyone to reach into it and extract discarded items, especially when the bin is full.

Discarded items, such as mobile phones and laptops are very likely to contain personal data.

Be it NRIC numbers, credit card details, passwords or other confidential information, our electronic devices have become a convenient repository for some of our most personal data.

We should be more mindful of what happens when we no longer require those devices and ensure that we destroy them securely.

Proper disposal of e-waste involves shredding or crushing the unwanted electronic device such that no data can possibly be retrieved from it.

When we dispose of our electronic devices carelessly, we are turning a blind eye to the possibility of our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

We trust that the individuals handling our e-waste will not pry into our personal information.

I am particularly keen to know if a safe chain of custody exists from the moment e-waste is dropped into a Renew bin to its destruction and recycling.

This will prevent opportunistic information thieves from discovering a gold mine of personal data that they can exploit for their own personal gain.

Taking care of the environment should not mean compromising on our data security.

After all, if we do not show concern for our own personal information as we care for our environment, who else will?

Duncan Brown

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2018, with the headline 'E-waste recycling push raises concerns of personal data security'. Print Edition | Subscribe