NEWS10 Special Report: Ghost in the Machine

ALBANY, N.Y. – When every detail lives on a computer, deleting your digital footprint isn’t as easy as hitting the delete key.

In a world where every detail of your life lives on a machine, computers have become companions. But with constant technology upgrades, consumers continuously trash their old machines for a new one.

But what happens to the personal information stored on a ditched computer? It holds pictures, e-mails and passwords. Even if you think you’ve deleted everything, you really haven’t.

Larry Zimbler of Libertek Computer Repair said deleting files won’t do the trick.

“When you hit delete, it doesn’t really get rid of it all the way,” he said. “It gets rid of it on one layer, but there’s about eight different layers.”

That information could possibly end up in the wrong hands.

“Generally people are gonna go digging if information is really valuable,” he said.

Zimbler recommends using a program called Hard Drive Wipe or Erase to reformat a computer.

“It lets us wipe everything off on a device,” he said.

Even physically smashing a computer won’t always destroy the data, but using a power drill to put a hole in the hard drive may help. Another option is to take your old computer to a certified recycler.

“The hard drives get shredded and get turned into scrap,” Zimbler said.

The following organizations recycle electronics using guidelines outlined in New York’s 2010 Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act:

  • Tech Valley Recycling
  • 767 Pierce Rd.
  • Clifton Park
  • Best Buy
  • 1 Crossgates Mall Rd.
  • Albany
  • Waste Alliance Network

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