Second-hand mobile phones have become a target for illicit data brokers, who recover deleted user data and sell it on the black market for as little as RMB 10 ($1.56).  Even phones that have been formatted to prevent incidents like this are not immune to exploitation.

According to reports, consumers sold over 30 million mobile phones in 2017, not including those marked for recycling. The number will only increase after the adoption of 5G networks, at which point the second-hand smartphone market will be flooded with unwanted 4G devices.

In an investigation conducted by AI Finance, reporters found that small businesses selling second-hand mobile phones were selling recovered address book information. One merchant initially charged RMB 100 for all the contacts on a mobile phone but quickly dropped her price to RMB 10.

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Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is a Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covers Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, and cybersecurity. You can contact him at chrisudemans [at] technode [dot] com.