Confidential Information

Amazing lapse of security and common sense at one Circuit City store in Colorado.

Denver, Colorado Channel Seven has the story:

Store's Floor Model Computer Loaded With Woman's Personal Info
Circuit City Says There Should Be No Expectation Of Privacy

Imagine receiving a phone call from a stranger who knew your most private thoughts, knew what you looked like, knew your Social Security number, and even knew how much you make and where you work.

That happened to a Colorado woman after she took her computer to a major electronics store.

Her situation may be surprising given all the warnings about identity theft. But it's not surprising if you think for a moment about what's on your personal computer. There may be files about your income, business records, taxes, personal e-mails, dirty jokes, pictures and more.

It's all personal information unless you took your computer to a local retailer.

Susan, who asked us to conceal her true identity, did just that.

"I do want the general public to know this information. I want them to be aware that their privacy is not protected when they go into that store," said Susan.

That store is Circuit City.

OUCH! She brought a new computer and brought her old one into Circuit City to have the files transferred over to a disk. I am assuming that there was some kind of trade-in given for the old computer as she left it there and Circuit City turned around and sold it. Unfortunately, after copying her files to a disk, they did not delete them from the original hard drive. In fact, when she asked them about this, their reply was:

Susan said it got worse. She said she questioned Circuit City and was told it was her fault for having those personal files on her computer and for expecting Circuit City to protect her privacy.

That's when she filed suit.

Chanel Seven brought some hidden cameras into that store when this news broke and they found that the policy has been changed:

7NEWS' hidden cameras found a change at Circuit City stores after Susan filed suit.

Employees now offer to transfer files for a fee and promise to protect your information.

"We don't download anything onto our computers whatsoever because it's a liability for you and it's also a liability for us as well," said a Circuit City employee.

That's a change from what Circuit City is telling Susan in court. The company says it had "no contractual duty" because the transfer was done at no charge and with no promises to protect her privacy.

Susan believes any reasonable customer expects a major computer seller would protect their privacy.

And the thing that gets me is what is not being talked about. You are buying a computer from a retail outlet -- even if it is a used machine, you should be able to assume that it is free from viruses and mal-ware. What if Susan's machine had a spam-bot loaded or a keystroke monitor? Who would be liable, the seller of the machine or the original owner. Finally, how was the operating system license transferred? If I was managing a store and sold used computers, I would wipe the hard disk of any system that came in (after transferring files of course) and sell the computer with a new licensed copy of whatever OS they wanted. Anything else would be an invitation to disaster...

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on May 11, 2005 10:19 PM.

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