Traditional Android factory resets no longer eliminate your smartphone photos, documents, and personal information. Data encryption is the recommended method.

The traditional Android wiping method consists of doing a factory reset whenever you decide to restore your phone to factory settings and trade it in on EBay, some other online retailer, or in a local trade-in store. New evidence suggests, however that Android wiping (via factory reset) doesn’t eliminate your photos, documents, and other data completely.

In a new study performed by antivirus and antitheft company Avast! the company found that traditional Android wiping doesn’t eliminate data from Android smartphones. Avast! purchased 20 Android smartphones from EBay and used traditional recovery data to see what information could be gleaned from the wiped Android devices.

The results are astonishing: on one Android smartphone, Avast! found a loan application that, of course, provided personal information that could be used by hackers. In other cases, 1,500 child photos were recovered, along with 40,000 other photos of individuals. 750 nude genitalia “selfies” of men and 250 nude photos of women were recovered, not to mention 1,000 Google searches and 250 personal contacts located in smartphone users’ contact lists.

Avast! encourages Android users to download its own anti-theft application from the Google Play Store (a recommendation that doesn’t surprise us, however). At the same time, it is true that activating your phone’s location, for example (whether with an Android smartphone or iPhone, for that matter) will produce personal information that can be discovered when one glances through a user’s photos. This is why parents with children are encouraged to disable their phone’s geographic location detector before snapping photos and pictures.

One way to effectively eliminate your files from Android smartphones consists of encrypting your smartphone’s data before deciding to do a factory reset.

How to encrypt your smartphone data

To encrypt your smartphone data, go to settings, then select “security” to enter into your security settings. Under security, select the “encrypt device” option.

You’ll need to remember that Android smartphone encryption will require an hour, so you must ensure that your battery is charged and that you don’t bother with your Android smartphone during that time. As data encryption settings warn, tampering with your device while your data’s being encrypted could lead to the loss of some or all of your smartphone data.

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After encrypting your data, you can continue to use your smartphone if you don’t have plans to sell it right away. If you intend to sell it, you can perform a factory reset after this. If you’re still concerned about how easy it is to recover your data, you can always load silly screenshots and photos onto the device – which’ll bury your important data a layer below the dummy data.

See Also: Android 4.4 KitKat grows to 17.9%, Android 2.2 Froyo still lingers

Keep in mind, however, that you’ll have to enter your password to access your data each time you unlock your device. This may not be a convenient option, but it’ll prevent your personal data and photos from ending up in the wrong hands.

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