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Lovers Beware: Scorned Exes May Share Intimate Data And Images Online

New Study Reveals Nearly 60% of Threatened Ex-Lovers Have Been Exposed by Their Exes; Cheating and Being Lied to are Top Drivers for Exposing Personal Data; and More Than 50% Cyber-Stalk Former Partners

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Feb. 4, 2013 – McAfee 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. The study highlights the need for consumers to take steps to protect themselves from cyber-stalking and exposure of private information.

Nearly two-thirds of smartphone owners have personal and intimate information on their mobile devices, such as bank account information, passwords, credit card numbers and revealing photos, yet only 40% have password protection on their devices. This leaves a gap in personal data protection, which results in exposure. 

“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 Michelle Dennedy, chief privacy officer at McAfee. “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.”

Top findings from the survey include:

Relationships, Break Ups and Personal Data
Despite public awareness of data leaks and high profile celebrity photo scandals, Americans continue to take risks by sharing personal information and intimate photos with their partners and friends. The research shows that 94% of Americans believe their data and revealing photos are safe in the hands of their partners.

However, McAfee has found that 13% of adults have had their personal content leaked to others without their permission. Additionally, 1 in 10 ex-partners have threatened that they would expose risqué photos of their ex online. According to the study, these threats have been carried out nearly 60% of the time.

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

  1. Lied (45%)
  2. Cheated (41%)
  3. Broke up with me (27%)
  4. Called off wedding (14%)
  5. Posted picture with someone else (13%)
  6. Other (13%)

About 1/4 of the population has regretted sending such intimate content after a break up and 32% of people have even asked their ex-partner to delete all personal content.

Sending Personal Content
Despite the risks, 36% of Americans still plan to send sexy or romantic photos to their partners via email, text and social media on Valentine’s Day. Significantly more men plan to do so, compared to women (43% vs. 29%), even though men get threatened to have their photos exposed online more than women (12% vs. 8%) and often have the threats carried out more than women (63% vs. 50%). 

Cyber Stalking
When armed with their partner’s passwords, a majority of Americans snoop and check out their partners’ emails, bank accounts and social media pages. More than 56% of people surveyed have admitted to checking their significant others’ social media pages and bank accounts and nearly half (49%) log in to scan their partners’ emails. The survey also revealed that slightly more people (48%) track their ex-partner on Facebook more than they do their current partner (44%). More than two out of five 18-24 year olds have admitted to even tracking their partner’s ex on Facebook and/or Twitter, compared to the 28% national average that snoop on their partner’s ex.

Males snoop on their partners more than their female counterparts. 46% of men admitted to tracking their partner, ex-partner or partner’s ex on Facebook or Twitter, compared to 37% of females. Additionally, on average, 57% of men admitted to checking their partner’s email, social media pages or bank accounts, compared to 52% of females.

Private Data
It’s not just revealing photos that people need to worry about. 13% of adults have had their personal content leaked to others without their permission. Sharing information at every turn, increases the likelihood of leaked data and identity theft. Bank account numbers (63%), health insurance ID’s (61%), social security numbers (57%), email accounts (60%), and passwords (54%) have all been shared with relationship partners.

When personal data is leaked, males are more likely to fight back to recover what was lost. About 15% of people who have had content leaked online hired an attorney and took legal actions to recover their information and have embarrassing photos removed from websites.  A quarter of the population has broken into the emails of those who leaked the data to find proof and recover what was lost.  The most popular form of fighting back was to confront the individual in person (47%) or online (36%).

Unprotected Devices
Nearly 40% of Americans leave their phone open and unprotected without a password, letting anyone who picks up the device access all their private content. Nearly 3 out of every 10 people never back up or save the content on their smartphones and about a fifth of Americans rarely or never delete any personal or intimate text messages emails and photos.

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About the study
MSI International conducted a total of 1,182 online interviews in the U.S. among adults ages 18-54. 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
Kim Eichorn, (408) 455-2172
kim_eichorn@mcafee.com
or
DKC Public Relations
Eva Ross, (212) 981-5218
eva_ross@dkcnews.com