41% have recycled mobile phones

Chris PolechonskiSenior Research Executive Digital, Media and Technology
April 30, 2013, 11:54 AM GMT+0

59% of 'mobile phone recyclers' are not concerned about private data left on their recycled mobiles

A new YouGov survey reveals that over two-fifths (41%) of Britons have recycled, part-exchanged or sold a mobile phone (not including selling it to a family member) in the past and so can be defined a ‘mobile phone recyclers’. Despite risks, the research shows that nearly six in ten (59%) of these ‘mobile phone recyclers’ are not concerned about leaving personal data on their device when passing on a handset.

YouGov’s findings for mobile phone security software provider BlackBelt show that a quarter (25%) of all adults have owned a second-hand or refurbished mobile handset and, of them, almost a third (32%) have discovered the previous owner’s personal information on the device.

Consumers are unsure about how much personal data can be effectively wiped from a mobile. Just over a quarter (26%) of all adults believes manually deleting data can completely wipe it from a smartphone and more than a third (37%) think the same about performing a factory reset. Similarly, over two in ten (23%) think that removing the SIM card will make their information irretrievable by third parties; the same number thinks the same for removing a memory card. More than one in five (21%) believes there is no fail safe way to remove all data from a smartphone.

Despite the uncertainties, nearly six in ten (59%) ‘mobile phone recyclers’ have still tried to manually delete information before they pass on a mobile phone and half (50%) have undertaken a factory reset. Additionally, more than seven in ten (72%) ‘mobile phone recyclers’ have removed a SIM card from their device to try erase personal data and 45% have removed a memory card.

Ken Garner, Business Development Manager at BlackBelt, says: “In these difficult economic times it’s understandable that more people are looking to either sell on or purchase used devices. I’d heard anecdotal evidence about the amount of private data, people were finding on second hand handsets, however these figures throw this into stark relief. The poll results suggest that people should be a lot more concerned about how much of their data remains on a device when it is passed onto a third party because this has the potential to open them up to risks such as fraud and identity theft.”

See the full survey results