Personal info stripped from recycled old gadgets

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on January 4, 2011 at 6:49 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 4 at 6:49 PM

SEATTLE -- That trusty old computer or phone can get lost in the excitement and shredded wrapping paper of a new one pulled from under the Christmas tree.

But your old friend knows a lot about you, and it's up to you to make sure it doesn't share that information with its new friend.

So if you plan to donate or recycle your old phone or computer, you should do a little research.

Reputable recyclers like Seattle's Total Reclaim are part of a network that has pledged to protect the personal information of customers. They promise to wipe clean your personal information from the hard drive before refurbishing and reselling your old computer.

You can even instruct them to destroy the hard drive by shredding it. Or, if you're still worried, you can ask them to let you watch them remove the hard drive. They'll either hand it to you or you can watch them drop it into the steel jaws of a metal shredder right there at the facility.

Cell phones are a little trickier. Different brands store information in different ways. Online services can instruct you how to remove memory cards or other devices that store sensitive numbers or photos. Or, you can instruct recyclers to strip the valuable metals and destroy the brains.

The key is to find a recycle or donation organization you trust. One good source to protect your identity, information and the environment is the Basal Action Network which has compiled a list of dependable organizations.

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