How to Properly Remove Nudes from Your Phone

In the age of metadata, simply pressing "delete" won't cut it.
October 9, 2020, 7:45am
nudes phone
Image: Shutterstock. Collage by VICE.

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.

The time has come: you’re finally ready to trade in your battered old phone for a newer model. Naturally, you want to sell the old one, but it knows a lot about you – maybe too much. For example, there's that photo of the weird rash on your inner thigh that you sent to a friend for a second opinion.

Before passing your phone on to a new owner, read our guide for both Apple and Android users – and protect your rash from getting into the wrong hands, so to speak.

ERASING YOUR IPHONE

If you have an iPhone, you're in luck. Even six-year-old iPhones can earn you about £100. And if you still have the original box, it’s weirdly worth more.

1. The watch has got to go

If you’re an Apple Watch kind of person, you'll need to unpair it from your iPhone. Don't worry, the watch will automatically back up your data. You'll need to sit both devices next to each other while they unpair.

To Unpair: Open the Apple Watch app> "My Watch" tab> Press the i button> Unpair Apple Watch

2. The safer the better

Now, onto your phone. Don’t lose the data you’re trying to secure – back it up first. If you have an iCloud account, you can start the backup on your iPhone, as long as you're on WiFi. Otherwise, use iTunes.

Create Backups: Settings> Apple ID> iCloud> iCloud Backup> Backup Now

3. Sign out of your Apple ID

If you don’t do this, data you’ve backed up previously could be deleted in the next few steps.

Apple ID: If you are using iOS 10.3 or later: Settings> Apple ID> Sign Out

If you're using iOS 10.2 or earlier: Settings> iCloud> Sign out> "Delete from my iPhone"> Settings> iTunes & App Store> Apple ID> Sign out

Also very important: delete all of your messages.

Settings> Messages> "iMessage" slide to "Off"

4. Delete photos and apps individually

This will be an Olympic exercise in patience, because Apple doesn’t let you delete all of your photos at once. Consider it a (potentially lengthy) trip down memory lane.

5. If you don’t need your iMessages any more, delete

If you’re planning on switching to a non-Apple device, it’s best to delete your number from Apple. To do this, click this link and follow the instructions.

6. The big red button: factory reset

Finally, the time has come to press the built-in reset button, brought to you by Apple. The reset will automatically switch off your passcode and Find My iPhone.

Factory Reset: Settings> General> Reset> "Erase All Content and Settings"

Your iPhone will take its time sorting itself out, and then that’s it. Thanks to Apple’s strong encryption you won’t need to worry about anyone digging up your old nudes. Pop out your sim and sell that phone.

ERASING YOUR ANDROID PHONE

Keep in mind that, depending on your brand of Android, your settings may be labeled slightly differently.

1. Keep your data safe

Yes, this also applies to Android users: if you’re planning to wipe your data, make sure you back it up first.

Backup: Settings> System> Backup

2. Deactivate theft protection

To combat phone theft, Google came up with the "Factory Reset Protection" (FRP) button, which prevents your device from being easily reset without your consent. To deactivate FRP, you need to switch off your screen lock on some devices and then remove your Google account (below).

Turn off FRP: Settings> Security or Screen Security> Screen Lock switch to "Off"

3. Log out of Google

You don't need to log out of apps like Facebook, TikTok and Instagram individually, but you should at least log out of your Google account. This prevents data from being deleted from your backup when you reset.

Logout of Google: Settings> Accounts> click on Google account> "Remove Accounts"

4. Lock the front door: turn on encryption

This one is important. Because a simple reset does not necessarily delete all data, you’ll need to encrypt your device. This means that the new owner won’t be able to access your data – even if they try. For Android users on 6.0 Marshmallow and later, encryption is automatically turned on.

Encrypt: Settings> Security> Advanced> Encryption & access data> Encryption on "On"

5. Upload some fake data

Even once you’ve deleted data, Android phones will store it until something is saved on top of it. So, if you really want to be on the safe side, you’ll need to overwrite anything lurking beneath the surface. You can download random videos to fill up space, or use an app like Secure Eraser to do it for you.

6. The Big Red Button

You’ve put a lot of effort into destroying all traces of yourself from your phone. At last, it's time to hit Reset.

Reset: Settings> System> Advanced> Reset options> Erase all data (factory reset)

7. Make Google forget it ever happened

You’ll forget all about your old phone as soon as you get your hands on a new one, but Google won’t forget that easily. To delete your phone from your Google account, go to Google device management, press the three dots and log out of the device.

No matter the brand, your phone is now ready to be passed on to its next owner. Your photos and accounts are safe – and you’ve made some money.