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Cornwall woman's personal data found on recycled hard drive

laptop

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:04am 25th March 2018. (Updated at 7:55pm 25th March 2018)

A Cornwall woman has spoken out after she recycled her old laptops - and was later contacted by a man who had bought one of her hard drives with all of her personal data on.

Ann Davies, from Penzance, had taken the three laptops to the recycling centre at St Erth and never expected to hear anything of them again.

However, she later found out at least one of the hard drives had been sold on, after the man bought it at a car boot sale in Cornwall.

She said: "My understanding was that they were incinerated there.

"I took them up just before Christmas and we asked where they should go and we were directed to a corner with lots of other electrical equipment, like televisions and stuff.

"We put the laptops there and forgot all about it."

However, Ann says her niece called her one day and said she had been contacted by someone through Facebook who had bought one of the hard drives.

And it was thanks to her unusual name that he had been able to track her down.

She said: "He'd bought one of the hard drives in a boot fair in either Pool or Hayle and he thought I should have the hard drive back.

"He started looking at it and found all the data and thought it shouldn't be out there.

"It worried me and I rang St Erth but I didn't get much joy with them - they just kept saying they had a contractor who takes them away.

"They had no suggestion of looking into their system or improving it.

"All they could say was that they had spoken to their guys and it wasn't one of them."

She now fears the hard drives in the other two laptops could have been sold on too.

She said: "I haven't had the hard drives back from the other two and I have no idea if they are out there or what has happened to them.

"I don't know if they have made it out there as well or if it was just this one."

After Ann starting investigating, it was later revealed by Cornwall Council that second hand items could well be sold on for spares or repair.

Now she is urging people to make sure their systems are wiped before taking them to the dump.

She said: "People need to be aware that this can happen if they take their items there and if it's something like a hard drive with personal data on it needs to be wiped first."

She adds that anyone could go in there and take from the pile of electrical stuff and is calling for more information on what happens to the items once they are at the dump.

Cornwall Council has since updated its website to make people aware of the risk.

A spokeswoman for the Council said: "Small electrical items, sometimes referred to as WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), taken to our Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) will either be taken away for reuse or collected by the WEEE contractor for recycling.

"Staff on site will sometimes identify items that are suitable for reuse and transfer them to the reuse point on site.

"Reuse items are taken by West Country Recycling and may be sold on for spares or repair, whilst items collected by the WEEE contractor will be broken down into their component parts for recycling.

"A note will be added to the HWRC webpages to advise residents disposing of laptops, tablets and other devices to factory re-set them and wipe personal data before bringing them to the HWRC."

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