After a recent TV news story regarding how much information was found on discarded cell phones in a university study, it seemed appropriate to review what one needs to do before selling, trading-in, or donating a cell phone to purge the phone of any personal information. All of the cell phones used in the study were purchased randomly from Goodwill.
If a new cell phone is in your future, here’s some tips on how to safely remove all personal data from your existing phone for peace of mind and to make sure you leave nothing behind that could be used maliciously by someone else. The same steps can be taken for tablets before disposal, too.
- Back up all your data, settings, photos, videos, texts, call log, contacts, etc. If you’re unsure how to do this, check with your provider.
- Remove your SIM card and SD card if you have one.
- Log out of all social media accounts, email accounts, and any apps which might track personal data.
- Once all your data has been backed up, encrypt your phone.
- Disable and remove all accounts and apps with personal data.
- Perform a factory reset.
CNET provides how-tos/videos on how to perform these tasks on Windows, iOS and Android phones.
The FTC advises that once you have performed all of these tasks, that you double check to make sure nothing remains on your phone. Further the FTC advises that you keep the serial number of your phone before letting it go. And finally, dispose of your phone responsibility. If you aren’t selling, trading, or giving away your phone, check with your local sanitation agency to learn how to dispose of it properly.