Secure Disposal of Old Electronic Devices

The use of electronic devices, such as smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, Smart TVs, and security cameras has become an integral part of our lives. These devices offer us a lot of convenience whether we are at home or away.

The technology around these devices continues to advance at an astounding rate. As a result, we are replacing these devices more frequently than ever. In doing so, we may not realize just how much personal data is stored on these devices – in some cases far more data than on our traditional computers.

When disposing of these electronic devices, it’s essential to take several measures to protect your personal information and the environment. Here are some important steps to keep in mind:

  1. Back Up Data: Before disposing of the device, make sure to back up any data you want to keep, such as photos, documents, and contacts. This ensures you don’t lose valuable information.
  2. Sign Out and Deauthorize: Log out of all accounts, apps, and services on the device. Deauthorize the device from any accounts, such as Apple, Google, or streaming services, to prevent unauthorized access.
  3. Erase Important Information: While the methods of erasing information may depend on an individual device, we recommend:
    • Factory Reset: For smartphones, tablets, and computers, perform a factory reset to wipe all personal data. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific device.
    • Erase Personal Information: Where factory reset is not possible, manually delete any remaining personal information, such as browser history, saved passwords, and downloaded files. Some devices, especially computers, allow you to perform a secure data wipe, which overwrites data to make it unrecoverable and you should use this option if it’s available. Beware that even seemingly non-sensitive data, such as your Wi-Fi network settings, could be used to compromise your security. Make sure to remove or reset these settings too.
    • Remove Storage Media: If your device has removable storage like SIM cards, SD cards, or hard drives, remove them before disposal. You can wipe or destroy these separately.
    • Physically Destroy Data (if necessary): If the device contains a hard drive or storage chips that are not removable, you may want to physically destroy them to ensure data cannot be recovered. This can involve drilling holes, smashing the storage components, or using dedicated data destruction tools.
  4. Use Responsible Recycling: Choose a responsible method of disposal. E-waste recycling centers and collection events are excellent options. Some manufacturers or retailers may also offer trade-in or recycling programs. Many Oakland County cities, villages, and townships host electronics recycling events to help residents securely dispose of old electronic equipment.
  5. Stay Informed: Technology and best practices change over time. Stay informed about the latest recommendations for secure device disposal.

By following these measures, you can ensure that your personal information is protected, and you are contributing to responsible e-waste disposal.  

For further reading, you can check these resources:

Learn more about Oakland County’s Information Security Office here. Visit their Citizen Cyber Training portal for online education and online Cyber Security resources to help understand risks and be better prepared for a more secure online experience.

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