Thursday, November 18, 2010

What happens to hard drives at Free Geek?

When a piece of equipment comes in through the warehouse gate, the first priority is re-use: if there's a reasonable expectation that it can be given a second chance at usefulness, a piece of gear will get cleaned up, tested, and sent out again to a volunteer or a grant recipient, or sold through the thrift store.

There are several risky aspects in re-use – for example, those universal Windows stickers bearing serial numbers. If a machine is sent out without that sticker being removed, it could be used to install a pirated copy of Windows. The Windows license remains with the original owner and cannot be transfered. This potentially puts Free Geek Vancouver in a position of legal liability.

Another common example is hard drives. When a machine is received at Free Geek, it almost always contains a hard drive with software and user data on it – and on a typical machine, that is almost certain to contain private information, from names to resumes to credit card information to who-knows-what. One of the most common questions asked by donors is – what happens to all that data? How can Free Geek Vancouver be sure that it's treated responsibly?
40GB IDE hard drives, clean and tested and ready for Ubuntu to be installed