While we often refer to our mobile devices and cell phones as “smartphones”, leaving private data on them may be the opposite. On any given day, our smartphones go where we go. Tucked securely in our pockets or purse as we shop, dine, and live— we pay bills, download games, and even use our devices to access banking apps. Whether we like it or not, smart devices are a large part of our routine lives and we add data to them on the daily. If you’re worried about the data on your phone, you should be. If you lose your cell phone, sell or donate it, connect to apps or browse emails and the web… your data might be at risk. This is how you can remove data from your smartphone and keep your private information from being stolen, used, or hacked.
What Types of Personal Data Can Be Found on Your Smart Device?
Imagine a stranger gaining access to your cell phone. What’s the first type of data that you worry about? For many people, the data that they think of as most private would be their driver’s license number, social security number, email passwords, and stored credit card details. While a scammer or hacker might target credit card information first, that is only the top card in the stack. Your smartphone holds a staggering amount of data on it.
Some of the data stored on your mobile device include:
- Your email accounts and stored passwords.
- Private email correspondence.
- Business email correspondence.
- Tax information, if (for instance) you’ve sent someone your tax return.
- Your resume.
- Loan/housing/apartment documents.
- Court and legal documents.
- The names and numbers of family and friends, along with their location (if they’ve used apps like “Find a Friend” to location share).
- Your location history.
- Your search history.
- Private information about your family, friends, spouse or significant other, and children.
- Search engine history, video watching history, and more (depending on settings).
- Credit card details.
- Driver’s license, SSN, and more.
- Social media history, including private messages and connections.
- Every WiFI you’ve connected to.
- Geo-tagged location in photos you’ve taken (once again, depending on your l0cation sharing settings).
- Chat history.
- Private photos.
Unfortunately, if someone knows what to look for, they can target, access, and steal your data quickly. They might access your device digitally or steal your cell phone before you even realize it’s gone! Other times, victims donated their cell phone to a good cause, such as a charity, and don’t suspect such a crime would ever occur.
If someone you know invades your data, they might take pictures of the information they find, send themselves screenshots, or delete the evidence. The latter example is one example to show that smartphone data thieves are not only hackers and con-artists. Couples going through divorce litigation – or when one spouse suspects the other might be cheating – are infamous for hacking into one another’s phones. Attorneys can even use the data attained during legal battles and your cell phone data could help or harm you.
How to Remove Data From Your Smartphone (Reliably!)
The first rule of thumb is to always be thorough. This means that logging out of your email accounts and clearing history is not enough. Use these steps on your Android or iPhone device…
How to Wipe an iPhone of Data:
- Go to “Settings”.
- Select “General”.
- Once you’re in the “General” tab, scroll to the bottom of the page and select “Reset”.
- Select “Erase all Content and Settings”.
- When prompted to verify, select “Erase iPhone”.
How to Wipe an Android Phone of Data:
- Go to “Settings”.
- Select “Backup and Reset”.
- Once you’re in the “Backup and Reset” section, scroll to the bottom of the page and select “Reset Device”.
Warning: If you want to back-up your information or save it to the Cloud, in order to connect it to a future device, make sure that your cell phone is fully backed up. Once you reset your cell phone it will be too late to go back. If you have a lot of data on your phone, syncing with the cloud and backing-up your phone may take some time. Make sure the process is complete before “Reset”!
Reading about the data that we carry with us on our cell phones can be mind-boggling, but having a hard to guess password can help. Choose complicated number patterns or formations (if your cell phone has you draw a shape) and never use common passwords such as “123456”, “111111” or your birthdate, etc. Otherwise, it is a good idea to know how to remove data from your smartphone.
If you’re concerned about privacy, a good starting point is a smart search. Social Catfish uses a proprietary algorithm to provide advanced, custom searches to consumers. You can reverse search any name, phone number, email address, social media username, and image to see who is contacting you and who might possibly have your information. Wonder what your friends and enemies can find in a search? Check your data for yourself using Social Catfish.