Devices and Distancing: What Digital Data Says About Life From Home

Devices and Distancing: What Digital Data Says About Life From Home

With millions of us keeping life closer to home in these past months, what can our devices and apps tell us about how we’ve passed that time? Plenty.

Usage stats, location data, app downloads, and daily active users, all drawn from anonymized data, are all common statistics that get reported on a regular basis. What makes them particularly insightful this year is to see how they’ve increased, decreased, or remained steady as nations and communities have put distancing measures in place. How are we living differently and what role are our devices playing in them?

That’s a rather large question, and different data sets, measurements, and methodologies will point to different insights. However, looking at a few of them together can help us associate some figures with the way our day-to-day experience has changed and continues to evolve.

Our own data shows people are using their desktop and laptop computers more

Using the McAfee PC app, which is always running and protecting (our customers) people  in the background, we’re able to look at general PC use. The inference here is that increased use of a desktop or laptop PC (especially during weekdays) indicates an uptick in people engaging in remote work, learning, or play. Our figures are drawn from pseudonymized or anonymized device records aggregated to a country level, with at least 1,000 devices counted.

What did our numbers specifically show? You can visit our Safer Together page and take a country-by-country view of the data, which starts in February. (See our interactive heat map at the bottom of the page.) A quick capsule summary of select nations is below:

PC Usage by Month

Unsurprisingly, the most marked jump in home PC use occurs during the stretch that measures March to April, which marks the period when stay at home guidance rolled into place for many. From there, those increases held relatively steady. Looking at the change from April to May, it appears that people largely stayed at home as well.

Beyond that, June’s week-by-week trends saw usage in Australia and India both increase steadily. The U.S., UK, and Germany also trended upward overall, while France and Italy trended downward.

Other apps and technologies point to other trends

Dating apps saw a big spike in downloads and usage during the same stretch of time. According to dating app Bumble, the end of March saw an 84% increase in the number of its video calls and voice chats. On March 29th, the Tinder dating app reported the highest number of swipes ever in one day up to that point—some 3 billion. As we shared in an article earlier this year about safely dating from home, perhaps this shouldn’t come as any surprise because dating apps are designed to bring people together. In periods of isolation, it follows that people would use them to reach out and make connections where they can.

There’ve been plenty of similar stories (and some surprises) in the news in recent weeks, as various firms, publications, and service providers share the some of the digital trends they’ve spotted, such as:

  • In April, online analysis firm Apptopia reported a marked decrease in mobile phone screen time and an increase in time on desktop browsers as people switched to bigger screens. They also tracked a major spike in the download of home improvement retailer apps in the U.S., such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Menards—up 69% year-over-year.
  • PC Magazine reports that internet usage surged 47% in January-March of this year. One statistic that underscores this increase is the percentage of people who consume more than 1TB of data in a month. This went from 4.2% of subscribers in the start of 2019 to 10% in the first quarter of 2020. That’s a more than 2x increase in so-called power users.
  • The same report shared further insights, such as collaboration tool Microsoft Teams setting a record for 2.7 billion meeting minutes in a single day and collaboration platform Slack seeing an 80% increase in paid customers over the previous quarter. Likewise, video conferencing tool Zoom saw its daily participants increase by 2,900% in the quarter compared to December 2019.
  • OpenTable, which provides online restaurant reservations across nearly 60,000 restaurants globally and seats 134 million diners monthly, have put out their own data as well. Their “State of the Restaurant Industry” figures offer few surprises as to hard-hit restaurants around the world have been. By making week-to-week comparisons between 2019 and 2020, it shows that seatings in early June are down roughly 75% globally compared to last year. Later in the month, they are still down 63% compared to the time same last year as well.


Looking ahead: more working from home?

While these statistics each provide their own snapshot of life during lockdown in retrospective, what remains to be seen is how the time we’ve spent at home will shape the way we work, learn, socialize, and entertain ourselves in the months to come. At least right now, it seems that people are wanting or expecting to see change. A new study from McAfee surveyed 1,000 working adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 74 in May 2020 and found that nearly half (47%) of employees do not want to go back to working how they were before stay-at-home measures were put in place.

However that plays out in the future, it’s important to protect ourselves today while we continue to rely on our devices so heavily. Comprehensive security protection, like McAfee Total Protection, can help protect devices against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats. Additionally, it includes McAfee WebAdvisor that can help identify malicious websites.

And one last stat: according to Nielsen, there was an 85% increase in American streaming rates in the first three weeks of March this year compared to March 2019 reports. Again, no surprise. Yet one thing to be on the lookout for are phishing and malware attacks associated with movies and shows that are offered for a “free” stream or download. It’s a common method of attack, and we’ve compiled our Top 10 U.S. List of TV and Movie Titles That Could Lead You to a Dangerous Download. Give the article a look. Not only does it name the titles, it offers you great advice for keeping safe.

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To stay updated on all things McAfee and for more resources on staying secure from home, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.


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