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RailCorp won't say whether laptops, mobile phones and other electronic devices sold at its lost property auction were cleaned of sensitive personal information before being sold.
The NSW Privacy Commissioner is already investigating RailCorp for selling 50 USB keys containing personal information to security firm Sophos at the auction on September 10. Sophos had analysed the USB keys and posted its findings on its blog.
The incident raised speculation that the state-owned corporation may not have erased data on other electronic devices sold through Pickles Auctions this year, such as the 2100 mobile phones, 110 iPods, 75 cameras and other devices like laptops and tower computers.
Hugh Blaker, branch manager at Pickles Auctions in Chipping Norton, which sells lost electronic devices for RailCorp each year, offered "no comment" as to whether it was the responsibility of Pickles to erase data from electronic devices, instead referring this website to the auction company's marketing department, whose spokeswoman, Angela Conn, said that there was an "understanding" between it and RailCorp that items such as USBs be wiped of any data prior to being provided to Pickles for auction.
The spokeswoman added that the understanding "should" extend to electronic devices other than USBs. "Pickles don’t have data wiping facilities, thus the arrangement we have with Railcorp to own this process," they said.
The agreement had been in place for a number of years and both parties "adhere to this process in good faith", the spokeswoman said. This is despite the fact that USBs were found by security firm Sophos to have been auctioned containing sensitive personal information about passengers.
A RailCorp spokesman did not definitively say whether the company wiped data from other devices. "With digital devices RailCorp undertakes a process in good faith where we look to erase any stored information before it is included in our lost property auction," the spokesman said.
"If staff do find something that has contact information they make every effort to return it, and our advice is for customers to name or have a contact number available on devices, as this assists in its return."
RailCorp would not explain whether "look to erase" meant data was erased in all cases or whether the hundreds of devices sold in September, and in previous years, were cleaned of personal information.
In a telephone interview NSW Deputy Privacy Commissioner, John McAteer, said he was currently dealing with the security firm's initial allegation that RailCorp sold USBs containing passengers' personal information.
"What we may or may not do in respect to extending any investigation ... will be a case of being able to I suppose review the position once we've dealt with the allegations that we have at the moment."
It was "relevant speculation", Mr McAteer said, to suggest other electronic devices may not have been wiped.
"The reality is that no one knows at this stage unless they ask the questions," he said.
"There could be other devices where this is happening and it's possible that these things haven't been wiped. But then it's possible that they all have been. I'm not suggesting one or the other. It's mere speculation."
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/technology/security/railcorp-privacy-saga-deepens-20111214-1ou9m.html
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