A CBS News investigation last month found that nearly every digital copier built after 2002 stores an image of documents copied, scanned or e-mailed by the machine on hard drives. CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports parents and students at Dos Palos High School in California found out the hard way recently, when CBS affiliate KOVR pulled hundreds of student names, home addresses, cell phone and Social Security numbers off the hard drive of an old school copier.
"The fact that information that we treat very, very carefully somehow got out of our system and is out there is a huge concern to us," said Brian Walker, Dos Palos school district superintendent.
Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey is of the same mind. Citing our report, he called for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission--concerned that most Americans don't know their information can be compromised.
"We have to do a lot more to ensure that the public and corporations know this," Markey said, "and that absolute security is applied to copy machines across our country."
Our investigation last month revealed how easy it is to buy used copiers at a warehouse and remove the hard drive packed with personal data.
Using software available free on the Internet, our expert, John Juntunen of Digitial Copier Security, downloaded thousands of documents in less than 12 hours.
From the Buffalo Police Department we found lists of domestic-violence complaints, and targets in a major drug raid.
From a New York construction company, we found 95 pages of pay stubs with names, addresses, and Social Security numbers.
And from a health care company, we found hundreds of pages of personal medical records. As a result of our story, Affinity Health was required to notify more than 400,000 people of a potential breach of their privacy.
"I think the copy machine industry has to step up, provide the leadership and technology that insures this information is scrubbed from copy machines," Markey said.
Now the Federal Trade Commission has jumped onboard (PDF), looking for ways to better protect the public from a simple office copier that we now know can leave behind a digital trail of secrets.