McAfee Canada Reveals Pitfalls of Sharing Personal Data and Passwords with Partners

Feb 04, 2013, 08:30 ET from McAfee, Inc.

1 in 10 Canadians have had their personal content leaked to others without their permission

60% of Canadians have personal or intimate text messages, emails or photos on their smartphones 

MARKHAM, ON, Feb. 4, 2013 /CNW/ - McAfee Canada today released findings from the company's 2013 Love, Relationships and Technology survey which examines the pitfalls of sharing personal data in relationships and discloses how breakups can lead to privacy leaks online. Sixty (60) per cent of Canadian smartphone owners have personal and intimate information on their mobile devices, such as bank account information, passwords, credit cards and revealing photos, yet four out of 10 users do not have password protection on their devices, leaving a huge gap in personal data protection.

"People need to be more informed about the consequences of sharing so much private information with their partners and friends," says Brenda Moretto, Canadian Consumer Sales Manager at McAfee Canada. "Sharing passwords might seem harmless, but it could and often does result in critical personal information falling into the wrong hands and landing in a public platform for all to see. People need to be aware of the risks and take the steps to make sure their personal data is safe and secure." 

The study highlights the need for consumers to take steps to protect themselves from cyber-stalking and exposure of private information. Top findings from the survey include the following:

Relationships, Break-ups and Personal Data
Despite public awareness of data leaks and high-profile celebrity photo scandals, Canadians continue to take risks by sharing personal information and intimate photos with their partners and friends, putting them at risk for a "revenge of the ex" situation. The study shows that 97% of Canadians believe their data and revealing photos are safe in the hands of their partners. However, McAfee has found that one in 10 adults have had their personal content leaked to others without their permission.

Amongst Canadian survey respondents who had exposed their ex-partners' personal content, these were the reasons they cited for their actions: 

  1. Their ex-partner lied to them (60 per cent)
  2. Their ex-partner cheated on them (50 per cent)
  3. Their ex-partner broke up with them (10 per cent) 

Eighteen (18) per cent of Canadian respondents regretted sending such intimate content after a break up and 21 per cent of people even asked their ex-partner to delete all personal content.

Sending Personal Content
Despite the risks, 23 per cent of Canadians still plan to send sexy or romantic photos to their partners via email, text and social media on the upcoming Valentine's Day.

Cyber Stalking
When armed with their partner's passwords, Canadians can't help but snoop and check out their partners' emails, bank accounts and social media pages. Approximately 45 per cent of people surveyed have admitted to checking their significant others' social media pages and emails, and 57 per cent have looked in on their bank accounts. The survey also revealed that 41 per cent of Canadians track their ex-partners on Facebook and Twitter, while only 38 per cent follow their current partners. 

Private Data
It's not just revealing photos that people need to worry about. One in 10 Canadians have had their personal content leaked to others without their permission. Canadians just love to share and they are doing it at every turn, increasing the likelihood of leaked data and identity theft. Bank account numbers (66 per cent), health insurance IDs (60 per cent), email accounts (57 per cent) social insurance numbers (53 per cent), passwords (52 per cent) and mobile phone content (50 per cent) have all been shared with relationship partners. 

Approximately 11 per cent of people who have had personal content leaked online hired an attorney and took legal actions to recover their information and have embarrassing photos removed from websites. More than a quarter (26 per cent) of the population has confronted the individual online, more than half (53 per cent) have confronted the individual in person, and 11 per cent have broken into that person's email. 

Unprotected Devices
Forty-one (41) per cent of Canadians leave their phone open and unprotected without a password, letting anyone who picks up the device access all their private content. More than 3 out of every 10 people (33 per cent) never back up or save the content on their smartphones and almost a quarter of Canadians (22 per cent) rarely or never delete any personal or intimate text messages, emails and photos.

Additional Resources:

* Quantitative Methodology
MSI International conducted a total of 517 online interviews in Canada among adults ages 18-74. Interviews among respondents were split evenly by age and gender, and achieved geographic distribution according to the US census. The interviews were conducted from December 14 through December 30, 2012. 

McAfee Canada is headquartered in Markham, Ontario, with regional offices across Canada. The company's Consumer Software Research and Development facility is based in Waterloo, Ontario.

SOURCE McAfee, Inc.

Image with caption: "Think twice before sharing private data, including texts, passwords, photos, and more. One in 10 Canadians have had their personal content leaked to others without their permission." (CNW Group/McAfee, Inc.)". Image available at: