Think twice about selling that old smartphone

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We all need to clean out the closets once in a while, and garage sales -- like the community-wide garage sale planned for McCook's Crazy Days next week -- are a good way to accomplish that task.

Unfortunately for the compulsive collectors among us, that's also a good way to fill the closets back up, but that's another problem entirely

Whether selling face-to-face at a garage sale or online, there are some new worries to think about before parting with your electronic devices.

Some 4.55 billion people worldwide are expected to use mobile phones and 1.75 billion of them are estimated to be using smartphones this year, according to an eMarketer report.

Unless we lose them, drop them in the toilet and run over them with a car, most smartphones last a couple of years before they're obsolete or we're just tired of them.

While it's tempting to do a "factory reset" and sell them online or to a neighbor, you might want to think twice about that.

For years, our news staff has used recovery software that can recover photos that have been "deleted" from camera memory cards, a definite advantage over the old film days when photographs could be lost forever in any number of ways.

But that same type of software could be applied to the memory of the smartphone you sold to an unscrupulous garage-sale shopper or eBay customer on the far side of the country.

The Avast security software company, naturally enough, raised concerns when it purchased 20 used Android smartphones on eBay, and using some off-the-shelf software, recovered more than 400,000 photos, including 250 nude male selfies, along with 750 emails and text messages, 250 contacts, the identities of four phones' previous owners, and one completed loan application.

Avast, of course, sells its own Android security app that it says does a better job of wiping personal data than the factory reset option that comes with the phones.

Smartphones play more and more of a key role in our lives, handling everything from our banking information to credit card passwords, social media messages, emails and personal journals full of all sorts of embarrassing or even incriminating information.

When it's time for a new phone, you might think twice about letting your old one out of your sight.

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