Data trove recovered from used phones shows privacy vulnerability

Brittany A. Roston - Jul 9, 2014
Data trove recovered from used phones shows privacy vulnerability

Many of us update to new smartphones fairly frequently, and many elect to sell their old phone on eBay or elsewhere, doing a quick factory reset beforehand. To demonstrate that such a method isn’t adequate enough to protect your privacy, security company Avast bought 20 used phones and set out to see how much data it could harvest from them.

The 20 smartphones all ran Android and were purchased off of eBay. Using what it says was “simple and easily available recovery software,” Avast was able to recover an “astonishing” amount of data. Of that recovered data was over 40,000 photographs.

Of those photographs, in a demonstration of the possible extent of potential privacy violations, Avast says more than 1500 images were of ladies “in various stages of undress” and over 250 were of one owner’s, shall we say, sensitive parts.

Images weren’t the only thing collected, however, with over 1000 Google searches, 750 emails and texts, and over 250 contacts and email addresses also being pulled from the phones. Out of the 20 phones, it determined four of the handsets’ previous owners. There was also one loan application (filled out) that was recovered.


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