Tech companies destroy millions of reusable storage devices every year

The current standard procedure for technology companies is to shred servers and hard drives every few years, rather than delete the data on them and then resell it, the report outlines damage to the planet caused by this practice. Tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google upgrade their storage hardware every four or five years. Together with banks, police departments, and government agencies, they smash roughly tens of millions of outdated storage devices each year, as even a small data exposure can have pretty serious legal consequences, as it could anger regulators and harm consumers of trust.

Last month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission fined Morgan Stanley $35 million for auctioning off thousands of hard drives, exposing the data of millions of customers. While there is no indication that any customers have suffered as a result, many companies, especially those operating cloud services, definitely don't want a similar situation.

Some may think that disposing of obsolete hardware and upgrading to new hardware is good for the environment, but the opposite may be true. While upgrading to newer hardware is more energy efficient and has a lower carbon footprint, the carbon footprint of most tech products comes from manufacturing, not operations.

Additionally, although shredded hardware has approximately 70 percent of its component materials recycled, the process essentially wastes the emissions from when the hardware was originally manufactured. Reusing these materials means repeating the most emitting part of the hardware's carbon footprint. To make matters worse, other lost materials, such as rare earth metals, must be re-mined, potentially resulting in the use of "controversial minerals".

Tech companies may think destruction is the only way to keep data safe, but experts see it as an unnecessarily extreme option . Many hard drives and servers may last for years or even decades, and the risk of bad actors recovering data from second-hand storage devices may be minimal. Google and Microsoft say they have started using some refurbished servers, but their standard procedure for dealing with hard drives is still shredding.

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