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Telenor hopes to encourage phone recycling by erasing data more securely

Norwegian operator Telenor will use special software to ensure that all personal and sensitive content is deleted from smartphones and tablets handed in by users for recycling, a change it hopes will result in fewer customers holding on to their old devices.

Users are often afraid that personal and sensitive content could be misused if they return their old phone for reuse or recycling, so they hold on to them, according to Telenor.

To help change that, the operator is adding an additional layer of security to the way it handles phones that customers hand over to them. Every phone collected by Telenor will get all of the personal and sensitive content securely deleted using Blancco Mobile, according to a spokeswoman at Telenor.

Blancco is a Finnish company that specializes in erasing data from PCs, laptops, servers and storage environments. The mobile version of its application is compatible with Android-based devices as well as Apple's iPhones and iPads.

Telenor can also offer locked containers handled by personnel who have been cleared by security to store phones in bulk until their content is deleted.

Restoring factory settings on smartphones and tablets doesn't ensure that data is permanently erased. Files can be recovered using free tools downloaded from the Internet, according to Blancco. With Blancco Mobile, user data such as emails, contacts and text messages are permanently deleted, allowing smartphones and tablets to be safely reused or resold, it said.

Telenor has used Blancco Mobile internally since March, but will offer it to customers from Wednesday, it said. Telenor isn't the only operator using Blancco's software, but the company isn't allowed to name any of them, according to Johanna Pakkanen, marketing manager at Blancco.

"Normally our customers don't like their names to be mentioned," Pakkanen said.

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