People even break out in a cold sweat when they think they have lost data that they previously deemed ‘trivial’. These findings are part of Kaspersky Lab’s "My Precious Data" study and reveal how distressing it is to lose data – even when that data hasn’t necessarily been deemed as ‘important’ or particularly valuable by its owner. The report is a good read.
In a digital world, the computer or smartphone’s storage has become what we are – photos, messages, letters, innermost secrets. In addition to physical breakdown of the storage medium is the ever increasing threat of data exfiltration by nefarious hackers who sell this for profit on the dark web.
Kaspersky found that 48% keep scans of sensitive information like their passport, driver’s licence, insurance or other scanned documents on their personal computers, 15% on tablets and 24% keep them on their smartphones.
As part of the study, Kaspersky Lab worked with psychologists at the University of Wuerzburg to measure people’s physical reactions to data loss in a series of three experiments.
While the psychologists expected to see much stronger reactions to the loss of important data, they were surprised to find that participants showed signs of distress when they lost trivial data too.
During testing, psychologists measured electro dermal activity (changes in the skin’s sweat glands), while users were most likely to break a sweat when they believed they had lost important data, sweat levels weren’t that far behind when trivial data was considered lost by participants.
Dr. Astrid Carolus, media psychologist at the University of Wuerzburg, said, “Our experiment shows that people, at least up to now, have rarely assumed their data to be valuable. It will be one of our future challenges to help people understand what companies already know: data is valuable.”
“Therefore, it is important to point out what data stands for, and what it means to people personally. To appreciate their data, people need to understand, or even feel, for example, that photos are not merely pictures and contacts are not merely addresses. These data categories are rather people’s most valuable life memories and their representation of social connectedness and affiliation. The value of data needs to be communicated. Only then may people realise just how precious their data really is,” she added.
Andrei Mochola, head of Consumer Business at Kaspersky Lab, commented: “The research reveals that the issue of data loss causes emotional and physical reactions in people. However, the reality appears to be that people don’t really know what type of data is more valuable to them until it’s lost, with people reacting physically even when they believe they have lost trivial data.
"Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why people aren’t giving the data they store on their smartphones, tablets and computers the affection and protection it deserves, despite the emotional attachment they say they must it. They are yet to truly understand the value of their data, and take appropriate measures to protect it.”