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Getting new tech? Safely ditch the old

** ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, MARCH 4 ** Computer and electronic components wait to be processed by a recycling machine at the Hewlett-Packard recycling facility in Roseville, Calif., on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2007. The computer industry is ramping up its campaign against electronic waste, a dangerous byproduct of technology's relentless expansion. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)
** ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, MARCH 4 ** Computer and electronic components wait to be processed by a recycling machine at the Hewlett-Packard recycling facility in Roseville, Calif., on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2007. The computer industry is ramping up its campaign against electronic waste, a dangerous byproduct of technology's relentless expansion. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)STEVE YEATER / AP

Yes, you know what's under the tree, don't be sly about it: That new camera, computer or smartphone. But what are you going to do with your old one? If you're not "re-gifting" it to a friend or family member, consider selling it or safely recycling it.

The folks at the Consumer Electronics Association have put together a list of websites to help you choose which route to go. First, though, remember before you sell or recycle a smartphone or computer, to wipe its hard drive so you don't leave any info behind for potential identity thieves.

AccessData, a security firm that works with government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, said it recently ran forensics on "several iPhones and other popular mobile devices purchased from sites like Craigslist, eBay, and from cellular resellers." The company found that while data on the devices "was seemingly wiped clean, they were still able to extract Social Security numbers, financial information, GPS locations, passwords, communications and other information that could be used for ID theft and other criminal activity."

To lessen the chances of that happening, AccessData recommends users do a factory reset of their phones, "sterilize any SD cards, and if possible update or restore the device's operating system. Some devices allow for a complete overwriting of the data as well."

For dealing with computers, PCWorld has a handy video, "How to completely erase hard drive," that may be helpful.

On CES' Greener Gadgets website, you can type in your ZIP code and quickly see what recycling resources are near you. Among the links to recycling programs (in addition to retail companies like Best Buy and Staples) are:

  • Recyclebank, which "offers a points system for recycling, which you can then use for discounts and merchandise. The site boasts more than 2 million users."
  • Close the Gap, which "makes reused and refurbished computers available to underprivileged individuals in Africa and other developing countries."
  • Digital Links, which has "distributed over 50,000 reused computers to the developing world and provided access to technology for over 125,000 individuals."

CES says that a smartphone's "lifespan" is 18 months, while a TV is more than 10 years," and points out other places that might benefit from recycling of those items, especially if they haven't reached their end of service: Local schools, retirement homes or community centers. If you do so, you'll get Santa's goodies, and get to play Santa yourself.

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