At first glance, deleting a text message sounds pretty straightforward. You just hit ‘delete’ on the phone, and you’re done. Right? In reality, all this does is hide the message or conversation from your device. You’re not fully deleting the message, as it stays in cloud storage and your cell provider’s log too.
So, what, if anything, should you do to really leave no trace of a message in question?
For iOS users, delete an entire conversation by selecting the chat with a specific person, sliding left, and tapping the red “Delete” button.
Deleting a specific message on iOS is also quite straightforward - open the text conversation in question and then press and hold a specific message. You’ll see the ability to send reactions, copy, reply, or translate here. But don’t get distracted and tap “More…” instead. An option of selecting and deleting specific messages will now appear. Follow the prompts on the screen, and you’re done.
If you use an Android phone, tap and hold the conversation you intend to delete. A trash can icon should appear on the far right. Tap on it, and the “Delete this conversation?” prompt will pop up. Now click “Delete,” and the conversation will be gone.
In order to delete specific messages, just press and hold on to the message you want to get rid of and select “Delete” from the pop-up menu.
Now your device will no longer display these messages, but keep in mind - they may still be kept on your device. To truly delete them, you’d need to clear all your system data, but we don’t recommend doing that unless you’re selling or giving the phone to someone else because this step will also wipe all the files and data from your device.
Unless you’ve turned it off earlier, your smartphone will also back up all the messages you sent and received on cloud storage. This online storage has a different name on iPhones and Androids, but it works in a similar way on both types of devices. Here’s how to disable message backup on your phone settings.
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On your iPhone and iPad:
1. Find the "Settings"
2. Tap on your "User Name" and then select "iCloud."
3. Find "Disable Messages" and tap to turn off auto backup.
In the iCloud settings, you’ll also be able to delete text messages that are already backed up. This is a crucial step if you want Apple to delete the messages, otherwise, they will still be retrievable from your device.
On your Android, you have Samsung Cloud.
You need to remove your cellphone backups after sending the texts you intend to delete. To do so, go to "Samsung Cloud" in the "Settings," find "Cloud Storage," and tap the data you want to delete. Finally, click on "Remove from Samsung Cloud." Note that this will delete all backed-up text messages from your device, but those that you still kept on your device will then reappear on your Samsung Cloud.
Of course, there’s also the complication that phone companies may also store some messages and could restore them, especially if they’re recent. “Most likely, they have the metadata — for example, the sender and the receiver and the time. The real text message, the real content has been deleted,” Yinzhi Cao, an assistant professor in the department of computer science at the Johns Hopkins School of Engineering to Huffington Post. “You won’t be able to recover the older things after a certain time.”
If you don’t like to store messages on your device forever, you can certainly set up an auto-delete option on your device too. In fact, in Android’s “Messages” settings, the “Delete old messages” feature is automatically turned on. This feature erases old messages once you have too many of them on your device.
When it comes to iPhones, you need to enable this feature yourself. To do so, find the “Message history” section in “Settings,” and either preserve messages permanently or auto-delete periodically in the “Keep messages” menu.
Sadly, the answer is a "No," even if both you and the recipient of the message have removed it and cleared iCloud backups. A trace of your message could still remain and be retrieved by your SIM provider. Of course, getting a message from a SIM provider would be no easy feat, so your privacy is still protected from prying eyes.
H/T: Huffington Post