A survey carried out by the Royal Society of Chemistry found that UK households hoard millions of unused electronic devices, and 23% of people surveyed have a mobile phone sitting idle somewhere in their home. It turns out that 18% of these people intend to recycle unwanted tech items, however the main obstacle for them to part with their unused devices are concerns that their personal data could fall into the wrong hands.
Our smartphones allow us to receive and send emails and texts, store our financial details and cards, passwords, contacts and are packed with our personal images. This is why it is important to follow certain steps to make sure your data won't end up getting used by third parties when you decide to trade your phone in or send it to be recycled.
Many of us might think that a simple factory reset will do the job, but it's only one of a few steps that need to be completed to protect your personal information. Tapping "Reset to Factory Settings" will delete apps you installed, files and settings and your phone will look the same it did when you first unboxed it. However, this step taken alone will not stop the next owner of your device from recovering your data. A study carried out by Avast, which is one of the largest security companies, revealed that it is possible to recover data from a phone that has been reset to factory settings. In fact, they bought 20 "erased" mobile phones on eBay and with them were able to restore more than 40,000 photos, 1,000 Google searches, previous owner identities, 750 emails and 250 contacts with email addresses.
The information below will guide you on how to remove all of the data from your device, depending on whether it's an iPhone or an Android phone. This will ensure that your data is protected when the time comes to sell or recycle it.
Before proceeding with data removal from your iPhone, it is essential that you have the most recent backup of your data, so that you can transfer it to your new phone or access files when you need to.
Navigate to Settings > tap Apple ID banner > iCloud > tap iCloud Backup > Backup Now.
You can use iTunes as an alternative method to have an up-to-date backup of your iPhone and photos. Check Apple's support page for step by step guide to back up your iPhone with iTunes.
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To protect your financial information, first access the Wallet or Apple Pay app. Go to Settings > Wallet and Apple Pay > select your card > tap on more options icon (three dots in the top right corner) > scroll down and Remove card. Repeat this for every card you have connected to your Apple Pay.
You need to sign out from all social media, email and other apps that have your login details saved. To disable iMessage, navigate to Settings > Messages > Sign out and then switch off iMessage.
Finally, your iCloud account needs to be removed. Go to Settings > tap on your Apple ID banner > tap Sign out at the bottom > Enter your password to confirm
In order to erase all of your saved website passwords, go to Settings > scroll down to Passwords > Click Edit in the top right corner > Select all and tap Delete in the top left corner.
While you're still in the Settings menu, scroll down and tap on Safari > under Privacy & Security section tap on Clear history and website data > tap Clear History and Data to confirm.
You should only proceed with resetting your iPhone to factory settings once you have completed the steps above. But before you do, you should ensure that your SIM card has been removed.
In the Settings menu, go to General > scroll down and tap Transfer or Reset iPhone > Reset > Reset All Settings.
This is the final step and it will help you to remove your iPhone's serial number from your Apple user account.
Visit appleid.apple.com, sign in with your Apple ID logins and access Devices, click on the iPhone you're selling and complete the process by clicking Remove.
It is very important to keep your data safe, and by combining additional data protection steps together with factory resets, this will help you to wipe your phone clean and leave no data behind when you sell it on or recycle your device.
Firstly, if you have had app sync turned off, your Google apps won't be synced automatically to your Google account when doing a backup. Head over to Settings > Accounts and Backup > Manage Accounts > scroll to the bottom and turn on Auto Sync data. For apps outside of Google services, you will need to visit each apps' settings individually and sync them manually if you want those to be inlcuded in your backup.
To upload the recent version of your Android to your Google or Samsung cloud account, navigate to Settings > Accounts and Backup > Back up data (either under Samsung Cloud or Google Drive depending where you want to have your backup).
Head over to your browser app (Chrome for instance) and click on the three vertical dots in the top right corner and scroll down to Settings, then select Passwords. Tap on each password individually and tap the bin icon.
To clear all your browsing history in Chrome app's settings, click History then tap on Clear browsing data.
If you use Google Pay for contactless payments, go to the app, and remove each card individually by tapping on the card and from more options icon in the top right corner select Remove Payment Method.
Similar steps apply to Samsung Pay users. Open Samsung Pay app, tap on Payment Cards at the top. Select the card you want to remove, and then tap on more options (the three vertical dots) to Delete the card. Repeat the above steps for each card connected to your Samsung Pay.
Open your Settings app, then in the menu look for General Management and Reset. Then tap on Reset All Settings.
Each manufacturer has their own cloud account service paired with a Google account. To securely remove them, visit Settings > Accounts and backup > Manage Accounts > tap on each cloud account (Samsung, Google) and tap on Remove account. On older versions than Android 11 account removal option might be accessed by tapping on more options icon (three vertical dots in the top right corner).
Log in to your Google account, go to Security and look for Your devices. Then, click on Manage Devices, select your Android phone then click Remove.
This step is probably the easiest. Use the SIM card ejector tool that was included with your phone or a paperclip to open the SIM card slot and take out your SIM card and any external memory cards you have.
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