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WARNING: 99% of All Recycled Cell Phones Contain Owner's Private Data


In a sampling of two thousand recycled mobile phones, 99 percent were found to have sensitive data like banking information and confidential emails.

The sampling was done by Regenersis. They processed over 2 million handsets in 2008; that’s one handset every 15 seconds. During a random sampling in December they discovered how many mobiles had not been wiped clean: a lot!

The average cell phone is replaced every 18 months. And hot numbers like the iPhone and Google’s Android are making smart phones even more ubiquitous. We’ve all heard about President Obama’s BlackBerry addiction, yes?

This means your cell phone’s new owner has access to all of your user names and passwords, or ever worse…your Twitter account.

“Data clearance of these handsets is critical to ensure the security of those who entrust their unwanted mobiles to us,” said Mark Franklin, managing director of Regenersis.

While wiping personal data is a service some recyclers do offer, it’s likely a two minute process to do it yourself. Some programs even suggest that you remove the SIM card before recycling your phone.

“Our advice to consumers is to check with the recycling firm to confirm that all data will be removed,” he said. “If it doesn’t, then think twice before sending them your handset as your data could end up in the wrong hands.”

But this could all be a moot point. Here in the US, there are approximately 700 million obsolete phones stockpiled at homes instead of being donated or recycled. Yah, we just rock like that.

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Written By

is a web developer, part-time blogger, and a full-time environmentalist. His crusade for all things eco started twenty years ago when he ditched his meat-and-potatoes upbringing for something more vegetarian-shaped. His passions include cooking, green tech, eco politics, and smart green design. And while he doesn't own a car anymore, he loves to write about those too. Jerry studied at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. During his time there he was a DJ at the campus station KCPR and he also wrote for the campus paper. Jerry currently resides in San Francisco, CA with his cat Lola. You can stalk him on Twitter @jerryjamesstone.


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