Most who find a lost smartphone look at the pics

A study by Symantec suggests that when people find smartphones, most look at the pictures and almost half open the banking apps. That's people for you.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read
What would they find on yours? Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Losing a smartphone is like losing your voice, your eyes, and your heart.

But have you ever wondered what really happens when a lost smartphone is found? Might you even have experience with finding someone's smartphone and then enduring a brief conversation with your moral code?

Symantec--people who are rather invested in the idea of security--decided to test what really happened when people found smartphones that weren't their own.

They scattered 50 phones around New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles and then waited for the results. The phones were sprinkled with made-up apps and data and monitored remotely.

I am grateful to the morally upright folks at CNET UK for finding this study, as the results will surely change so many of your personal habits.

Sexters will be particularly disturbed that 72 percent of those who found the smartphones went through the pictures buried therein.

Please imagine your feelings, should some seedy New Yorker have gone through your holiday snaps and intimate self-portraits and, who knows, copied them to (and for) his own devices.

While your extremities shiver at that, please consider that 96 percent of finders tried to open at least one app or file. Some 43 percent of these finders opened all the banking and financial apps on the phones. A fulsome 57 per cent perused the saved logins and passwords. Oh, and a nosy 45 percent tried to access the corporate e-mail on the phones.

But at least you might imagine that, in the end, all these smartphones were returned to their rightful owners. You might imagine that quilts are made of popcorn. For a mere 50 percent of finders attempted to return the phones to their keepers.

There will, naturally, be some who will assume that not many of these 50 percent were in hard-hearted New York and Washington, as we on the West Coast are such people-people. I cannot concur with that, as I am occasionally on the East Coast for business and would very much like to still have friends there.

Perhaps, though, we might hear from those who have found phones in order to see whether these results reflect the current prurient state of human nature.

Is it the case that once you start looking at things on a phone, you just can't stop?

b Symantec Smart Phone Honey Stick Project.en Us