Electronic retention: What does your mobile phone reveal about you?

William Bradley Glisson, Tim Storer, Gavin Mayall, Iain Moug, George Grispos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The global information rich society is increasingly dependent on mobile phone technology for daily activities. A substantial secondary market in mobile phones has developed as a result of a relatively short life-cycle and recent regulatory measures on electronics recycling. These developments are, however, a cause for concern regarding privacy, since it is unclear how much information is retained on a device when it is re-sold. The crucial question is: what, despite your best efforts, does your mobile phone reveal about you?. This research investigates the extent to which personal information continues to reside on mobile phones even when users have attempted to remove the information; hence, passing the information into the secondary market. A total of 49 re-sold mobile devices were acquired from two secondary markets: a local pawn shop and an online auction site. These devices were examined using three industry standard mobile forensic toolkits. Data were extracted from the devices via both physical and logical acquisitions and the resulting information artifacts categorized by type and sensitivity. All mobile devices examined yielded some user information and in total 11,135 artifacts were recovered. The findings confirm that substantial personal information is retained on a typical mobile device when it is re-sold. The results highlight several areas of potential future work necessary to ensure the confidentially of personal data stored on mobile devices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-349
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Information Security
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Forensics
  • Mobile devices
  • Privacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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