A new report from the Financial Times reveals that current standard procedure for tech companies is to shred servers and hard drives every few years. They no longer delete the data on the disks and resell it. The report describes the damage caused to the planet by this practice. Jcompanies like AmazonMicrosoft and Google upgrade their storage hardware every four or five years. Along with banks, police departments, and government agencies, they destroy approximately tens of millions of storage devices each year. It is because a exposing small data can have quite serious legal consequences.
Last month, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission fined Morgan Stanley $35 million for auctioning off thousands of hard drives, exposing the data of millions of customers. There is no indication that any customers suffered from the leak. However, many businesses, especially those running cloud services, have no desire for a similar situation. Some may think that disposing of obsolete hardware and upgrading to new hardware is good for the environment. However, the opposite may be true. Upgrading to newer hardware is more energy efficient and has a lower carbon footprint. However, the carbon footprint of most technology products comes from manufacturing, not operations.
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Shredding kills the environment
The shredded material has approximately 70% of its components recycled. However, the process essentially wastes emissions from the initial manufacture of the material. Reusing these materials means repeating the most emitting part of the material’s carbon footprint. To make matters worse, other lost materials, such as rare earth metals, need to be re-mined. This potentially results in the use of “controversial minerals”.
Tech companies may think destruction is the only way to protect data. However, experts see it as an unnecessarily extreme option. Many hard drives and servers can last for years, even decades. Additionally, the risk of malicious actors recovering data from second-hand storage devices can be minimal. Google and Microsoft say they have started using refurbished servers. But their standard procedure for dealing with hard drives is still shredding.