McAfee today released findings of its “2013 Love, Relationships, and Technology” survey, which closely documents the downside of sharing personal data in relationships and discloses how breakups can lead to breach of privacy online.

The study highlights the need for consumers to take steps to protect themselves from cyber-stalking and exposure of private information.

86 percent of smartphone owners have personal and intimate information on their mobile devices, such as bank account information, passwords and credit card numbers and revealing photos. Still, only 79 percent have password protection on their devices. This leaves a gap in personal data protection, which results in exposure. 

The shocking numbers

The shocking numbers

“We’re all aware of the cases involving celebrities, but you don’t have to be a celebrity to have your personal information exposed,” said Lubna Markar, Senior Marketing Manager, McAfee India and South Asia. “Sharing passwords with your partner might seem harmless, but it often puts you at risk for a ‘revenge of the ex’ situation, landing private information in a public platform for all to see. Everyone needs to be aware of the risks and take the steps to make sure their personal data is safe and secure.”

Relationships, breakups and personal data

Despite public awareness of data leaks and high profile celebrity photo scandals, Indians continue to take risks by sharing personal information and intimate photos with their partners and friends. The research shows that 96 percent of Indians believe their data and revealing photos are safe in the hands of their partners.

However, McAfee found that 77 percent of adults have had their personal content leaked to others without their permission. Additionally, three out of ten ex-partners have threatened that they would expose risqué photos of their ex online.

Of those surveyed these were the partner actions that lead to the exposure of personal data:

  • Lied (38 percent)
  • Cheated (48 percent)
  • Broke up with me (41 percent)
  • Called off wedding (23 percent)
  • Posted picture with someone else (15 percent)
  • Other (3 percent)

About half of the population has regretted sending such intimate content after a breakup and 49 percent of people have even asked their ex-partner to delete all personal content.

Sending personal content

Despite the risks, 53 percent Indians still plan to send sexy or romantic photos to their partners via email, text and social media on Valentine’s Day. Bifurcating the data, 60 percent Mumbaites, 51.8 percent Delhites and 47 percent Chennai residents plan to share their risqué or romantic photos with their partners via email, text and social networking websites on Valentine’s Day.

Cyber stalking

When armed with their partner’s passwords, a majority of Indians snoop and check out their partners’ emails, bank accounts and social media pages. More than 73 percent of people surveyed have admitted to checking their significant others’ social media pages and 44 percent their bank accounts and nearly 72 percent log in to scan their partners’ emails. The survey also revealed that slightly more people (47 percent) track their ex-partner on Facebook and 49 percent check on their current partner.

Private data

It’s not just revealing photos that people need to worry about. 23 percent of adults have had their personal content leaked to others without their permission. Sharing information at every turn increases the likelihood of data leaking and identity theft. Bank account numbers (63 percent), health insurance IDs (64 percent), email accounts (75 percent), and passwords (47 percent) have all been shared with relationship partners.

Unprotected devices

Thankfully, the majority of Indians password protect their smartphones (86 percent) hence ensuring data safety from anyone who picks up the device to access their private content. Given their affinity with technology and the importance placed on data, 78 percent regularly back up or save the content on their smartphones and about 98 percent Indians delete any personal or intimate text messages emails and photos regularly. 

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