Legislation Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein sponsored to combat identity theft by requiring the hard drives of all digital copy machines to be wiped clean to protect sensitive, personal information was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
The information is stored on each machine, in some cases in perpetuity, unbeknownst to millions of consumers. The bill (A-2975) was released the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.
“Consider all of the highly sensitive information stored on copiers used by both the public and private sector – medical records from a doctor’s office, tax information and social security numbers from an accountant’s office, sensitive police records, you name it,” said Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “In today’s global economy, a copier used in a doctor’s office in Trenton could be re-sold to someone in South America, sending thousands of sensitive documents into the realm of the unknown and opening up a Pandora’s box of potential fraud cases. We need this legislation and we need it now.
Most digital copy machines use internal hard drives, which store every document that has been scanned, printed, faxed or emailed by the machines, many times numbering in the tens of thousands by the time a copier is resold or returned at the end of a lease agreement. According to a recent CBS news report, most businesses do not erase the hard drive on a copier before getting rid of it, putting the highly sensitive information of millions of consumers at serious risk of theft.
According to a 2008 survey commissioned by electronics manufacturer Sharp, 60 percent of consumers are not even aware that copiers store images on a hard drive.
The bill requires that a person destroy, or arrange for the destruction of, all records stored on a digital copy machine, which is no longer to be retained by that person, by erasing or otherwise modifying those records to make the records unreadable, undecipherable or nonreconstructable through generally available means.
A person that willfully or knowingly violates the provisions of the bill is liable to a penalty of not more than $10,000 for the first offense and not more than $20,000 for the second and each subsequent offense.
The provisions of this bill shall be enforced by the Attorney General.
A person damaged in business or property as a result of a violation of this bill may sue the actor in the Superior Court and may recover compensatory and punitive damages and the cost of the suit including a reasonable attorney’s fee, costs of investigation and litigation.
“In addition to the serious threat of identity theft, consumers are also vulnerable to serious social repercussions posed by sensitive medical records or police documents,” added Assemblywoman Greenstein. “There’s a simple way to eliminate these risks and we need to make sure it’s instituted.”