FTC examining digital copier privacy

Fears that modern copy machines may store images on their hard drives indefinitely has prompted the Federal Trade Commission to take action.

The agency last week announced it had started contacting copy machine manufacturers to alert them of the plethora of security risks associated with their hard drives, which experts fear can be breached and exploited for sensitive information quite easily. 

The inquiry follows an April 29 missive from Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) to the commission, in which the lawmaker described digital copiers' hard drives as a "treasure trove for thieves, leaving unwitting consumers vulnerable to identity theft as their Social Security numbers, birth certificates, medical records, bank records and other personal information" are lacking in protection.

News of the review satisfied Markey, who released details of the FTC's letter along with a statement praising the agency on Tuesday.

"A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in this case, these images could cost consumers thousands of dollars if they were victims of identity theft," he said. "I look forward to continuing to work with the FTC as it proceeds with its important activities."

The federal government's somewhat unexpected interest in copy machine privacy follows a CBS investigation first aired last month. That report found almost every machine built since 2002 stores images scanned or e-mailed into it.