This article is from the In-Depth Report Technology and the Emerging Post-Privacy Era
60-Second Tech

Protect Privacy When Recycling Smart Phones

A factory reset may not be enough to wipe the data from a smart phone you're planning to recycle. Larry Greenemeier reports

If you're thinking about upgrading to Apple's new iPhone 5 when it debuts in a few weeks, you're going to have to figure out what to do with your current device. Given how much we've come to rely on these gadgets for storing pictures, contacts and personal information, some serious privacy issues should be considered before selling, recycling or trading in your old phone.

Typically, you restore factory settings on your smart phone before parting ways. But a couple of recent articles on and find that factory resets are inconsistent, depending on the phone.

Blackberry and Apple resets appear to delete and scrub personal data the best, according to data retrieval experiments described in the articles. But Android and Microsoft smart phones weren't as good at wiping important information.

In the Yahoo article computer analyst Steve Burgess recommends that, in addition to the factory reset, you should remove a phone's memory and SIM cards before turning it in. Robert Siciliano's advice in the story was a bit more severe. He recommends a drill, a sledgehammer and bucket of salt water.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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