Dec 01 2016

The Goodwill Store “Data Policy” Is Absolute Crap

Being the kind of person I am, when I go thrifting, I’m on the hunt for electronics. Hell, today I found a clock from the 60’s, an 80’s tape player AM/FM radio (that needs a new belt but otherwise has a perfect look to it for me) and a VHS rewinder (because who doesn’t need one of those, right?) all at absolutely minimal cost!

The thing you won’t see, or hear about me buying, however, is anything relating to a computer or tablet. That’s because Goodwill has an interesting little policy regarding such.

You see, the official policy goes something like this: They won’t sell computer components, like keyboards mice, floppy discs, what have you, because they may contain personal information.

That’s at least the official statement. While that may be true, it’s silly to think a keyboard or a mouse will contain information. What’s worse, though, is that this policy seems to just plain not matter in practice. I don’t mean they sell you stuff regardless, because nope, that ain’t the case, no no: very sensitive personal information can be found, quite often, if you happen to stumble across it.

Look at these examples: Medical records, and financial information.

Mortgage information

Mortgage information

Are you fucking serious? Granted, the people who “donate” the containers with this info should go through some effort to get rid of such, but the fact that this stuff is even available, and that I can take a photo of it, tells plenty. I could just as easily ball this up and put it in something and buy that, and walk out with their info, or, hell, take this photo and use it! It doesn’t matter – the info is available to whomever would want access to it, if they happen to be in the right place at the right time!

Medical Information

Medical Information

Going back to their “data policy” as it applies to hardware… it’s already stupid enough to think that a keyboard would somehow contain information, but here’s what’s even more insane:

Today I watched a couple want to buy a tablet inside of a keyboard cover. They found it in the bargain barn (the “junk shop” of Goodwill, so to speak), so it would be dirt cheap, especially for that combo. All kinds of junk winds up in there, but this would be a cool find. They go to buy it, and I already know what’s coming. Heck, I’ve seen someone try to buy the same kind of keyboard before, and it get rejected for this reason.

Here’s the kicker… the really screwed up thing. Remember, this policy is nothing that can contain personal data.

They could buy the Tablet, which may contain who knows what kind of information, like accounts, passwords, personal documents and email, or who knows what… but they couldn’t buy the keyboard.

Dead serious.

So, you’re telling me that I can buy any old storage device without issue (hell, I passed up a hard drive that would have been useful due to my knowledge of this policy) but a ratty old mouse, nope! Not good. I could rummage through someone’s financial and medical info, but heaven forbid I find a 1999 Dell keyboard to go with my Windows 2000 computer!

Dell… funny I would bring them up… if you ever go to a Goodwill store you will probably see a sign for that “Dell Reconnect” program, or whatever it’s called, where they refurbish old computer equipment. You know, the kind of equipment that they don’t want you to buy at all.

You see where I’m going yet? That’s right, the only reason they don’t let you buy this stuff is that it’s intended for that Dell program. As such, they need to keep you from buying it if you do find it on the shelf, and that’s their excuse, that it may contain sensitive data.

What a load. I don’t blame the workers for following policy, I blame Goodwill and Dell for just not being honest on this, or trying to check ahead of time that none of these things are available for purchase. Then again, the whole policy is just stupid by principle – if the stuff is donated, just go on and let people buy it. Keyboards don’t contain data. Mice sure as hell don’t. If someone donates a floppy disc, then, maybe take care to destroy it (as much as that sucks to let happen to a usable disc with probably good data), but if it’s an old game, don’t destroy it!

How about focusing on keeping actual sensitive information out of the bins, while also allowing us to buy things we want.

It’s not a hard process. Don’t lie to people, I can, and will, call bull when I see it. This article has been a long time coming, but the incident above, the past day, really shows the idiocy of the idea.

I have more to say about the experience of shopping at Goodwill, but I will hold that for a later article. For now, please, retweet this, making sure the @GoodwillIntl tag stays put so that maybe they will know as much as I love hunting for items there, I, and quite possibly you, think this is absurd!

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