Thursday, 27 November 2014

Second Hand Rose Tinted Spectacles

My dear old Mum used to frequent jumble sales. Done properly back then, jumble sale shopping is akin to the car boot sale nowadays, but in the church hall or the scout hut. The trick was to get there very early and snaffle all the bargains before anyone else could. As my family were involved in the scout movement, who ran a fair few jumble sales in those days, she used to get in before the general public if at all possible. I dimly remember as a child watching her and her friends and deadly rivals rummaging through piles of old tat as if their lives depended on it.

Years later, having had a clear out, I did a car boot and before I had turned off the car engine found myself surrounded by ‘dealers’ to whom I sold my best wares before I even set up my table. Now we have EBay as well, and Facebook groups dedicated to making money out of stuff we don’t want anymore. It is quite astounding what people will buy.
Second hand IT equipment is freely available.

EReco has an EBay shop, as do others, (find it on and today I discovered that the charities are at it too, the BHF for one. I am sure the vast majority are doing things properly but there are some fairly serious questions I find myself asking.

The obvious one is data security. Whilst the temptation to get £50 (or less, or more, it all depends on what it is) for your old laptop must be very great (or indeed give it away to your local charity shop) is anyone thinking about what is still on the hard disk?

Probably not.

Is anyone thinking about who owns the software? Again, in the non-business world, almost definitely not I am afraid Mr Gates. Sold as seen. Given freely without comeback. Who cares about those pesky licences anyway?

Buyer beware. Just a quick Google search this morning and I found laptops for sale from £5 (plus P&P) to £500 (for a Mac book). I know of a specialist shop which remarkets laptops, who do things right in terms of offering a guarantee, putting on a legal operating system and software etc, and indeed wiping the hard disk to a certain extent. It would not satisfy our standards and I reckon our Ben could get at the data in about fifteen minutes, but it would certainly be better than just hitting delete and emptying the recycle bin. My feel for their wares would be between £150-200 on average. My dear mother would have fainted. She got the collywobbles once paying 50p for a bit of Devon motto-ware china.

Remarketing is good for the environment, as I have mentioned before. Extending the lifecycle of any electrical product is great, as 80% of the environmental damage is done during manufacture. But I have my concerns about the unregulated nature of this business.

My PC at home will have everything on it somewhere. Passwords, account numbers. Apart from the fact that by the time I replace it the thing will be so out of date no one will want it, I would not hand that hard disk to anyone lightly.

So what are the chances of your old laptop falling into the hands of some unscrupulous criminal mastermind? Slim, I will admit. But that is not the point. If you lose your keys, do you change the locks to your house? If you lose your wallet, do you cancel your cards?

Yes, of course you do, because those are reasonable precautions. Well guess what? So is making sure you remove your data from any device you are disposing of. It does not cost much, much less than getting a new key cut.