The average cell phone has a life expectancy of 18 months. What happens to all your personal information when you upgrade your phone? In too many cases, that personal information gets passed along to the next user.
Personal information can include:
|stored phone numbers and addresses||usually not much of a worry|
|records of calls made or received||not a problem unless you've been talking to someone that you wouldn't want your spouse or employer to know about|
|pictures||again, may not be a problem depending on what kind of pictures you took|
|copies of text messages sent and received||often a serious privacy issue|
|the speed-dial setting for your voicemail with both the access number and password||potentially very serious|
This is not an all-inclusive list. Modern phones also include calendars, memo pads, to do lists and other applications, all of which you might have used and which might have personal or business information that should be kept private.
Most phones include a delete function but independent reviews of those delete functions show them to be mostly pretty poor. Good hackers can undelete the information on most common cell phones with only a little specialized equipment and knowledge. To protect your privacy:
- Treat a phone's text message service with the same caution that you use for unsecured email. Be especially professional in your use of text messaging.
- Make sure that your old information is really gone before giving the phone to a friend, family member, charity or try to sell it online. (If all else fails, a 2½ lb sledge hammer does a very reliable job of making the data unreadable – but it won't be worth much when you're done.)
For additional information and a real-life scenario, read this recent story from CNN.com.