The McCain campaign apparently had lots of Blackberrys and other stuff that they used during the 2008 presidential campaign that they wanted to dispose of. So, they had a fire sale of all their equipment. The Blackberrys were listed for $20 and some of the techies from Gizmodo picked up a few. The batteries on these devices had run down and when they were charged again, what do you think they found?
Sarah Palin’s email and phone numbers, contact information of lobbyists, journalists, and email to and from all these people including Sarah Palin. (Original CNN Report).
I do not use a Blackberry now, but used to have one, and they usually come with a “wipe” feature. This allows users to completely erase all the data from the phones. Some form of this feature is available in almost every phone that is made these days. It is always imperative for you to ensure that all the data is securely wiped (different from just deleting the data) from any device before throwing them away, be it phones, laptops or computers.
For your computers, there are free software that can erase data for you. The aptly named Eraser is one that has a lot of options and can do the job. While there are a lot of opinions on whether using software to erase data on your devices will actually prevent someone from retrieving the data, it is something that we, as users, can and should do.
So, the next time you send your phone or any other device that stores data back or throw away, make sure that the device has been cleared of all your data.
I have posted an article on wiping your Windows Mobile phone on this site.