It appears people are recovering data off old iPhones. Whoops- looks like you can pull data out of memory using forensics tools, just like any other platform. While your Mac includes the ability to overwrite old data when formatting your hard drive to prevent recovery (very cool that this is included in a consumer operating system), there is no equivalent mechanism to clear off that “ancient” original iPhone when you trade up to the 3G version next month.

For those of you who aren’t just convincing your spousees to take your “old” iPhone off your hands to justify that new toy, Securosis presents a simple process to minimize the chances of recovery. It’s not perfect, but it’s easy and should offer enough protection for those of you forced to eBay your once-precious-but-now-obsolete device:

  1. Restore the iPhone from within iTunes.
  2. On the “Info” tab, un-check all options so you don’t synchronize calendars, email, bookmarks, and contacts.
  3. On the Photos, Podcasts, and Video tabs, uncheck “Sync …”.
  4. Create 3 big playlists at large as the storage capacity of your iPhone.
  5. On the Music tab, select the first of your 3 playlists to sync. Make sure the storage bar at the bottom looks full after syncing.
  6. Sync your iPhone, change to the next playlist, sync again, and repeat one last time.

This will hopefully overwrite any of the free space on your phone, helping prevent recovery of any of those love letters and bad jokes lingering from old emails. I won’t have a chance to test this anytime soon, and odds are high some fragments will survive depending on how the iPhone allocates at the file system level, but this should be more than sufficient to prevent casual recovery of sensitive stuff if you’d like to hock your “old” phone.