Wipe Your Phone Before Handing It Over

Mean people will violate your privacy if you don't

Published on . Takes about 6 minutes to read.

My relative got a new phone and returned the Galaxy Nexus model I had borrowed to him. What surprised me was that he hadn’t bothered to take any privacy measures at all: his accounts were still logged in and he even helpfully disabled the screen lock pattern for me. He either trusted me way more than he should have or, more likely, as many people do, did not think about the issue at all.

Secure your data before disposing of your old computer / phone / tablet. The following should illustrate why you should.

If I Were a Mean Person

… then I would do any number of mean, mean things with such a phone, including, but not limited to…

…mess with your social media accounts

  • send IM messages
  • make embarrassing posts
  • (un)friend people
  • declare your relationship status as “It’s Complicated”
  • read your communication history
Facebook Messenger Instagram

…read your emails

Password resets are usually tied with your email account which means I can use the “Forgot your password” feature and gain access to any website where you have created an account for.

Emails

…browse your search history

What people search and visit tells so much about us.

Search Search Search

…disable remote phone wiping

Obviously, I don’t want the victim to take photographs of me, pinpoint my location or remote-wipe the phone.

Emails

…read your text messages and phonebook

SMS

…view any files you left on your device

All your drunk party pictures and documents belong to me!

Files

… and do any number of other evil things, just because one can. Obviously, this is bad. So, use protection: before disposing of an old phone:

  • log out of every account
  • delete all personal files
  • use the “Reset to factory settings” feature