If your current phone is ready for retirement or you need to sell your current phone to upgrade to a new model, follow these steps to keep your data private.
We generate about 50 million metric tons of e-waste every year. That's equal to the weight of almost 4,500 Eiffel towers. This number has been growing because of increased consumption, shorter life cycles for the product, and fewer repair options. Most of this electronic waste is incinerated or dumped in a landfill.
In 2019, only 17.4% of e-waste was recycled even though the materials could be worth up to $65 billion of potential value in raw materials.
Instead of tossing your phone in the trash, you can recycle it, sell it, or donate it. That's the best thing to do for the environment but be sure to protect your privacy as well. There are several steps you can take to make sure all your data is off the phone and inaccessible.
SEE: How to recycle, trade in, donate, or sell your iPhone 11 (TechRepublic)
Before you start this process, back up your data by following the excellent advice for iPhone users from Patrick Holland on CNET and for Android users by Jason Cipriani, also from CNET. Make sure you have everything you need for your new phone before deleting everything off your old phone.
Unpair all devices
Disconnect any Bluetooth connections to watches or headphones or other devices to which you connect your phone.
Sign out of all services
For iPhone users, this includes iMessage and the App Store. You also should unregister your iPhone from your Apple account. It's a good idea to sign out of other linked services such as Facebook or Twitter.
Delete credentials from browsers
If you have stored log-in information in the browsers on your phone, take time to delete this information also.
Fill the phone with dummy data before encrypting
This is an extra credit step that will make it even harder for a bad actor to do anything with any of your data that he can dig up, as Vladimir Unterfingher wrote on the Heimdal Security blog. Create blank documents and round up a few stock photos. Put these files on Google Drive or iCloud and download them to your phone.
Deactivate your accounts
This applies more to Apple phones than Android models, as explained by Michael Nuncic on the Ontrack data recovery blog. iPhone users should deregister their phones from iCloud and iTunes. Turn off Activation Lock and unregister your devices from your Apple account as well. It's also a good idea to sign out of your Google account before resetting your phone.
Encrypt your data
It's worth the extra step to do this. If your phone does fall into the wrong hands, it's not that hard to restore erased data. If a bad actor takes the time to do this, he won't find anything useful if you encrypted your data before erasing it. iPhones encrypt data automatically. Android users have to do this manually, although devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or above may be encrypted by default.
Delete your data with a factory reset
This step erases the pointers to your data. For iPhones, go to Settings, General, Reset, and then select "Erase all content." For Android phones, turn off Factory Reset Protection, an extra security protection that started with Android Lollipop. go to Settings, Privacy, Factory data reset, and then choose "Reset phone."
Take the SIM card out
The Subscriber Identity Module card stores information about you and your cell phone, including phone numbers, text messages, billing information, and data usage. When you sell your phone, the new owner will need his or her own SIM card so there's no reason to leave it in your phone.
Lexy Savvides on CNET has detailed instructions about how to wipe personal data from a mobile device for Android, Windows, and iPhone users.Following these steps will get your phone ready for recycling or selling while keeping your data safe at the same time.
- Wi-Fi 6: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Microsoft Surface Book 3: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Hiring Kit: Application Engineer (TechRepublic Premium)
- The 10 best smartphones you can buy right now (ZDNet)
- Best wireless car chargers and mounts of 2020 (CNET)
- The 10 most important iPhone apps of all time (Download.com)
- Smart phones and mobile tech: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)