Bloomberg News

Sydney Dumpster Divers Find Data Outside Banks, Law Firms

February 18, 2013

A dossier on a worker lawsuit, detailing mental health and compensation demands, lay in a trash bin outside a Sydney law office reflecting the risk to personal information, a group focused on data destruction said.

The document was just one example of dozens of confidential records found during a survey of 80 trash bins in Sydney earlier this year, Robert Johnson, chief executive officer at the Phoenix-based National Association for Information Destruction, said in Sydney today.

About 40 percent of bank trash bins surveyed contained sensitive financial records, according to the group. A quarter of the containers at doctors’ offices had personal medical data and a fifth of the receptacles at lawyers’ offices held some private legal information. The industry-funded group said companies must better manage data destruction and new laws would do little to dissuade those focused on identify theft.

“We’re talking about people,” Johnson said at a press conference. “Laws don’t stop that kind of behavior.”

Overall, 11 percent of the bins surveyed in Sydney had some private or confidential information, according to the group. The largest Australian city fared better than London, Toronto and Madrid where NAID surveys found 40 percent of the sampled trash contained sensitive data.

Credit Limits

Investigators were curtailed by Australian law, which prohibits removal of the trash, unlike in Canada where people give up ownership of anything put in a waste bin, Johnson said.

Outside doctors’ offices the survey found pap smear results, blood tests and documents that were torn in half showing workers knew they should have been destroyed, Johnson said.

Bank waste bins contained information on individual accounts, with numbers, account balances and credit limits, making it easy for anyone who wanted to steal someone else’s identity, according to the group.

The group didn’t identify any of the companies or firms surveyed as that would put the focus on them, rather than the behavior in the sectors, according to Johnson.

NAID is an international trade association for companies providing information destruction services, with chapters in Australia/New Zealand, Canada and Europe.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net


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