When the United Kingdom’s largest cellular phone recycler randomly searched 2,000 phones for personal data in December, over 99 percent contained everything from personal contacts to emails to banking information.
While wiping personal data is one of the services offered by most recyclers, 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.
The average cell phone will be replaced every 18 months, and many of the newer internet-ready models store passwords and other information for future use. This data (such as saved user names and passwords to online bank and email accounts) could be readily accessible if your phone is not properly cleared before recycling.
No similar studies on the presence of personal data have been conducted in the U.S., but it may be a moot point, as it’s estimated that 700 million obsolete phones are currently stockpiled in U.S. homes instead of donated or recycled.
Asking about destruction of personal information is just one question to consider when picking an electronic recycler.