If Your Smartphone is Lost, There’s a 96% Chance That the Finder Will Rifle Through Your Private Data

Curiosity is a difficult temptation to resist. Some hands-on research from Symantec reveals alarming statistics about the dangers of losing your smartphone.

Symantec deliberately “lost” 50 smartphones across Canada and the U.S. in cities like Ottawa and New York. Left in high-traffic public spaces such as malls, these trackable devices were all obviously picked up by people eventually. The question is, what did the finders of these lost smartphones do with the devices?

Only half of the people who found the lost devices made any attempt to return them to their owners, a disappointingly low statistic. Although it’s worth noting that 70% of Canadians tried to locate the smartphones’ owners, considerably higher than any American city.

But those who attempt to return lost devices can’t help but snoop around. A stunning 96% of all smartphone finders could not resist the temptation to delve into the device’s personal data—yes, that’s right, 48 out the 50 lost smartphones had their owner’s private information violated.

And it gets worse. 60% of finders spied on social media and email information and 80% dug into corporate information, even files marked clearly as confidential. Indeed, almost half of finders actually tried to access the owner’s bank account.

This isn’t to suggest that people are evil-minded (though some, of course are). Most finders were likely just giving into burning curiosities more than hoping to ruin a life or steal money. Still, these numbers should make you do at least two things immediately: enter a password to lock your device, and hold it very, very tightly in public.

Photo: Ben Dobson