New research finds personal data is being unknowingly left on recycled handsets


The research from Kroll Ontrack and Blancco Technology Group claims handsets still contain sensitive information, despite previous owners thinking they’ve deleted them

Thousands of emails, call logs text messages, photographs and other bits of sensitive information are being unknowingly left on second-hand mobile phones.

This is according to new research from Kroll Ontrack and Blancco Technology Group.

Both companies purchased 122 second-hand hard disk drives, solid state drives and mobile devices sold in the UK, USA and Germany from Amazon, eBay and This included 20 handsets from LG, Apple, Samsung, Motorola and HTC.

Engineers from both companies found that previous owners had attempted to delete information from the devices, but there will still traces left on the handsets. Up to seven of these devices (35 per cent) had leftover data on them.

Kroll Ontrack programme and operations manager Paul Le Messurier said: “Residual data left on two of the second-hand mobile devices were significant enough to discern the original users’ identities.  Whether it’s a person’s emails containing their contact information or media files involving a company’s intellectual property, lingering data can have serious consequences.

“Manually deleting data or simply logging out of a mobile device app does not erase data from the device. Deleting data simply hinders the ability for the mobile device to locate the data – the actual data still remains and can be recovered. To successfully delete data to a state where it cannot be recovered, one must completely overwrite the data using reputable deletion software.”