What Personal Information Can Be Found On A Cell Phone?

The rise in cybercrime and the proliferation of malicious software that can be used to compromise electronic devices of all sorts means that strange behavior on your mobile device might be a sign that it’s been compromised. While you could hire the services of a private investigator to debug your cell phone and secure your data, there’s no guarantee that your information hasn’t already been stolen by that point. 

If you do think you’ve been targeted, what information has been exposed? In this article, Barefoot Professional Investigations breaks down the type of data that can be found on cell phones and how it might be used against you. 

Your Cell Phone is a Jackpot of Personal Data

Whether you’re involved in an investigation where your cell phone becomes a piece of evidence or you’re targeted by a malicious actor in the form of a hacker, you should probably consider making efforts to actively minimize the amount of personal data that’s stored on your cell phone. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website, the information found on your phone is considered some of the most private and sensitive, and often the subject of data protection legislation such as HIPAA and other consumer privacy-based laws. This is why it’s not legal for a private investigator to access this information in the course of an investigation and why even law enforcement officials require a subpoena to access it. Depending upon the locks and privacy settings on your phone, anyone with the right tools can get to this information on your phone 

Text Messages and Emails

In the United States in 2019, the number of text messages that were sent in total is estimated to have been more than 2 trillion messages. In the same year, roughly 294 billion emails were sent daily globally. We are a culture that communicates via digital channels, and we often retain those records for informational purposes. And in many cases, a person’s cell phone will also be set up to access work email accounts or contain sensitive data of their activities and behaviors. 

Even if we set our texts to delete or manually delete them at certain intervals, with the right tools or access to the account the contents of deleted texts can be recovered. Similarly, emails that have been deleted will live on in backups of email servers over time and can be retrieved as well by skilled attackers. 

Location Data

The settings on most cellular phones that keep a constantly updating record of locational and positional data are often buried in the settings menu. And even if you’ve turned off location settings, major software updates and operating system patches have been known to reset user settings, including whether or not the phone’s locational data is tracked on the phone. If your phone has been infected with tracking software, hackers could use that data to then further bug your house, your vehicle, or arrange to encounter you in a public setting to further compromise other electronic devices. 


We use our phone cameras for any number of purposes, not the least of which as reminders of important information. Aside from what the images show, though, is the location data embedded in the files, which can be used to establish routines, track location, and otherwise used to gain information that can help an attacker compromise other aspects of our lives.   

Indirect Verification of Financial Accounts and Other Incriminating Online Activity Through the Existence of Specific Software Applications

The right malicious software on your phone could extract data about financial accounts and access any number of other accounts across applications on the phone. Used by malicious hackers, your identity could easily be compromised.  

Barefoot PI Has the Right Tools To Secure Your Device

Working in Charlotte, there’s a chance that you might work for an organization that would be targeted by hackers. If you feel that your mobile devices have been compromised, our investigators have the skills necessary to debug your device, ensuring that malicious software is removed. We can then help you resecure your personal information and accounts and assist in any follow-up investigations. 

And now that members of our team have attained the Cellebrite Certified Mobile Examiner and Paraben Certified Smartphone Examiner certifications, we can also assist in the identification and recovery of data from cell phones in the course of a forensic investigation by law enforcement. For more information on this and other ancillary services, our professional investigators can support, contact our main office in Charlotte. 

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