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Your Old Smartphone's Data Can Come Back to Haunt You. Your old cell phone data can reemerge from the past to haunt you.

Your Old Smartphone's Data Can Come Back to Haunt You

Whether it’s because sellers are lazy or naive, cast-off phones still contain troves of information about their former users. And as phones get smarter, they’re ever more likely to hold bank account passwords, personal email, or private photographs that anyone with the right kind of motivation could exploit. PCWorld's previous investigations have shown that people don't properly erase the data on their old computer hard drives before they dispose of their laptops and desktops, even when the data includes their own sensitive information and that of others. And consumers seem to be just as uninformed when it comes to eliminating the data on their old phones.

To see just how critical the problem is, we bought 13 Internet-capable phones from various sellers on eBay, small businesses, and flea-market stands in the San Francisco Bay Area. Wipe Your Phone and Check It Twice Don't Count on Companies to Wipe Your Data. IPhone and Android Apps Breach Privacy. Secret Button Sequence Bypasses iPhone Security. A security flaw in the iPhone allows strangers to bypass the handset’s lock screen with a few button presses.

Secret Button Sequence Bypasses iPhone Security

In the video below, a Brazilian iPhone customer demonstrates the quick method to circumvent an iPhone’s passcode-protected lock screen: tap the “Emergency Call” button, then enter three pound signs, hit the green Call button and immediately press the Lock button. That simple procedure gives a snoop full access to the Phone app on the iPhone, which contains the address book, voicemail and call history. tried out the procedure with complete success on an iPhone 4 running iOS 4.1, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.

Update 11 a.m. PT: An Apple spokeswoman contacted with a response regarding the security flaw: “We’re aware of this issue and we will deliver a fix to customers as part of the iOS 4.2 software update in November.” Hat-tip: 9 to 5 Mac See Also: Betrayal of the app: How mobile apps are spying on us. Your favorite mobile apps could be collecting and transmitting your personal information, including your name, contacts, location and even your phone’s unique ID number, to ad networks and other third parties.

Betrayal of the app: How mobile apps are spying on us

And worst of all, there’s little you can do about it. This mobile privacy bombshell was revealed by an in-depth investigation from the Wall Street Journal, which tested 101 popular mobile apps on the iPhone and Android to determine what sort of data they were transmitting. The paper found that 56 apps transmitted the phone’s device ID without consent, 47 apps transmitted user location and five shared age, gender and other personal information to third-parties. The popular music app Pandora, for example, transmits age, gender, location and phone IDs to ad networks in both its iPhone and Android versions. TextPlus 4, a popular free texting app, sent out phone IDs to eight ad companies, and location and personal data to two.