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Sold your old mobile? Your 'deleted' personal pics could now be 'live': Dubai Police

Lt. Col. Ahmed Matar Al Muhairi, Head, General Department of Forensic Science and Criminology, Dubai Police. (Supplied)

By Muna Al Khanjari

If you have private pictures on you mobile phones and are worried about them being seen by strangers, then don’t sell your old mobile phones.

Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Lt. Col. Ahmed Matar Al Muhairi, Head, General Department of Forensic Science and Criminology, Dubai Police, advices public who have taken or received private pictures on their mobile phones to avoid selling them.

“Today, there are many programs that can retrieve deleted pictures, even in old and formatted mobile phones. Therefore, it’s advisable for people who have private pictures of themselves or their families on their phones to avoid selling the gadgets to shops or individuals,” he said and added that many people in the GCC have fallen victims after mobile phone shops retrieved their private pictures and blackmailed them.”

What do you do when you replace your old mobile phones?

So what do you do when you replace your old mobile phones with latest ones? Emirates 24|7 spoke to a few Emirati girls who said the best ways are to either burn, destroy or store them away in a safe place.

Dubai-based Khawla said she changes her mobile phone once every year. “In my family, most of us change our mobile phones at least once a year. Every winter when we go to the desert and set fire, we throw our old mobile phones into the fire. This is a ritual in the family and we do it almost every year.”

She pointed out that earlier they broke or destroyed the phones, but that created a mess with broken glasses and other parts of the phone all around the place. “By burning old phones, we are assured it is fully destroyed and we trash the remains.”

Thuraya, another Emirati girl, also changes her mobile phone almost once a year. “At home, most of us change our phones once every year. We – my mother, two sisters and muself - store our old mobile phones in a box and once every two years, we smash them with a hammer.”

However, she added, that only girls in the family smash their old mobile phones while the boys give their old phones either to housemaids or drivers.

“We destroy the old mobile phones and do not sell them or give them to housemaids because we fear they might trace back our photos and videos that we have erased. There are ways of doing this. We wear hijab and we don’t want our pictures going around,” Thuraya explained.

Shaikha Al Shamsi, an Emirati mother-of-three from Sharjah, said that she stored her old mobile phones in a box for many years.  “I keep my old mobile phones and never sell them. It stays as a backup mobile phone for me and my family in case our new gadgets break down or need to be repaired. These old phones were useful all these years to me, my husband and my brothers. By the end of this year, I will break all these phones and smash them. It is necessary as I have more than 15 mobile phones in my box.”

Dubai-based Fawzeya Al Ahli, an Emirati mother-of-four, said that she never sells her old mobile phones.

“I give my old phones to my younger sisters, and if they are in bad condition, then I keep them in a box. I don’t sell as I fear the shopkeepers might trace back the pictures and videos. I don’t give them to housemaids either, because after finishing their contract when they return to their home countries they can track back the erased pictures and videos.”

Fawzeya said she has eight mobile phones in her box now and has not yet decided whether to destroy them.