Computer repair shops are privacy nightmares

What will come as zero surprise to members of this forum, researchers at a University in Canada found that at least 50% of the time they left a computer for repair the technicians snooped on personal data and at least 20% of the time they copied data off the device.

Though it may be worse than that because in at least two instances their access logs were not recoverable and it looked like it was deliberately deleted/tampered with by a technician attempting to cover their tracks.

Oh and of course female customers were more likely to have their files accessed/copied then males.

Study reported by Ars Technica

I think we should listen to the general sentiment that a lack of transparency and accountability makes repair shops terrible. I also think it’s safe to assume that female customers are more likely to be snooped on than their male counterparts. However, we need to keep in mind the limitations of this research.

From the limitations section of the study itself:

…our sample size is small. Furthermore, it is subject
to several other limiting factors that are not in our control,
including a curious technician not finding the opportunity to
snoop due to some reason or the presence (or absence) of
privacy violations indicating that a service provider regularly
commits (or does not commit) such violations.

While I thoroughly believe in the right to repair movement and the need for better options in regards to device repair, we need to be careful not to invalidate our position by exaggerating data points.

This doesn’t surprise me, in the least. It’s one reason why Samsung’s new repair mode, is such a good idea (in theory). I have no idea how well it works (can it be bypassed with something like ADB), but it would be good to see this rolled out on more devices.

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