Privacy Risks of Used Cell Phones
Ignore the corporate sleaziness by Cingular for the moment — they sold used cell phones meant for charity — and focus on the privacy implications. Cingular didn’t erase any of the personal information on the used phones they sold.
This reminds me of Simson Garfinkel’s analysis of used hard drives. He found that 90% of them contained old data, some of it very private and interesting.
Erasing data is one of the big problems of the information age. We know how to do it, but it takes time and we mostly don’t bother. And sadly, these kinds of privacy violations are more the norm than the exception. I don’t think it will get better unless Cingular becomes liable for violating its customers’ privacy like that.
EDITED TO ADD: I already wrote about the risks of losing small portable devices.