Why Big Tech is destroying millions of storage devices that it could reuse
The chief operating officer of Techbuyer, an IT asset disposal company in Harrogate, stood in a large windowless room of a data center in London.
surrounded by thousands of used hard drives belonging to a credit card company. Knowing that he could erase the discs and resell them, he offered a six-figure sum for all the devices.
The answer was no.
“I came out and thought, ‘This is absolutely crazy,'” Payne says. “They couldn’t let the discs leave the building – despite the fact that we could wipe them on the spot and then sell them to a new customer who could use them for years. . . It was a real mess. »
Payne had first-hand experience of the ubiquitous industry practice of shredding data storage devices.
Every day, when you send emails, update a Google document or take a photo, the data generated is not stored in a “cloud” as the metaphor suggests.
The servers contain several data storage devices, each about the size of a magnetic tape. They are located in the world’s 23,000 data centers
Companies such as Amazon and Microsoft
as well as banks, police departments and ministries, destroy millions of data storage devices every year, the Financial Times has learned thanks to interviews with more than 30 people who work in and around the dismantling industry and via dozens of freedom of information requests.
And this is despite a growing chorus of industry insiders who say that there is another better option for safely disposing of data: using computer software to securely erase devices before selling them on the secondary market.
“From a data security point of view, you don’t need to shred,” says Felice Alfieri, a European Commission official who co-authored a report on how to make data centers more sustainable and who promotes the “deletion of data” rather than the destruction of devices.
The problem of trust
At the root of the reluctance to move away from shredding is the fear that the data could leak, triggering fury from customers and huge fines from regulators.
That was on top of a $60 million fine in 2020 and a $60 million class-action settlement reached earlier this year.
the bank now requires that each of its data storage devices be destroyed – the vast majority on site. This approach is widespread.
An Amazon Web Services employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the company destroys each data storage device once it is deemed obsolete, usually after three to five years of use: “If we let a [piece of data] pass, we lose the trust of our customers. Amazon declined to comment.
Microsoft says it is on track to build 50 to 100 new data centers every year
The UK Department for Education the Department for Work and Pensions.
Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland told the FT that they are destroying all data storage devices that have been decommissioned.
The Northern Ireland force claims to have shredded 30,000 pieces of equipment, including servers and hard drives, over the past two years.