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How much do you trust your partner with your data, and what happens when it ends?

A recent study took on the challenge of measuring the trust we have in our partners, and the trust in those same people when it ends.



The digital domain has a big role to play in the lives of modern couples – many meet online for the first time, and use the Internet to find out more about each other long before they meet. Regardless where we meet, the building blocks of the relationships are kept in the digital sphere?

What if, once you’ve embarked on a relationship, you start seeing the occasional interesting message pop up on your partner’s smartphone? Do you tell them they have a message but take care not to read it yourself? Do you hope your partner will invite you to read it too? Or, do you sneakily read the message while they’re not watching?

If you chose the latter, how would you feel about your partner doing the same to you? And, in a loving relationship where everything is transparent, does it in fact matter at all?

We are here to tell a story of one couple, John and Amy (*not their real names), whose experiences are typical of a couple tackling privacy issues in the digital age. This report is based on research, and uses the example of John and Amy’s relationship to discuss some key privacy issues that many modern couples are facing.

An online survey conducted by research firm Toluna and Kaspersky Lab in January 2018 assessed the experiences of 18,000 respondents from 18 countries, who have been in a relationship for at least six months, and who are more than 18 years old.



Chapter one: Boy meets girl


Chapter two: John and Amy become Jamey

That moment when a new relationship becomes publicly official, for many, also marks the beginning of a period when the boundaries between two previously separate digital lives become blurred. Match.com statistics have recently shown that updating their social media status to “in a relationship” is a milestone that generally happens 157 days from the beginning of a relationship, and often after each party has said “I love you” to the other (day 144 on average).


The study shows that 80% of people believe that each person in a couple should have some private space both online and offline, however, 70% state that relationships are more important to them than their privacy – as you can see, at some point in their development, relationships start blurring people’s attitude to their own privacy.

Thus, many also share access to each other’s devices, and our study found that half of people in a relationship know the PINs/graphical passwords to unlock each other’s devices, blurring the boundaries of digital privacy even more.

In addition, 26% store intimate things on their partner’s devices, such as intimate messages, photos and videos. Moreover, 7% say they have stored intimate messages from previous partners on a device or online account that their current partner has access to, leaving them vulnerable to being read/viewed by their current partner.

Perhaps these partners simply have enough trust in each other that they are confident the other will not snoop into these intimate depositories. Perhaps they feel they have nothing to hide.


Chapter three: John and Amy need some private space


This behaviour is mostly seen among those who admit that they are not completely happy with the relationship they’re in. We measured relationship happiness during the survey by asking people to classify their relationships from the following options: “our relationship is great and I’m happy with it”, “our relationship is good and I’m satisfied with it” (these two options have been classified as “good” relationships in this report), “our relationship is OK, but could be better”, or “our relationship is unstable, I’m not sure if we have a future” (these options were classified as “bad” relationships). Users could also choose not to answer this question if they didn’t want to.

Classifying relationships in this way has given us some interesting findings. For example, 38% believes their partner’s activity should be visible to them and 31% admits to spying on their partner online. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that 20% feel their online privacy is endangered because of their partner.

However, this rises to 48% among those who said, “our relationship is unstable, I’m not sure if we have a future.” So, it’s easy to see why privacy may sometimes become the cause of tension, especially for unhappy couples.

But people can harm each other’s privacy not only in order to spy on a loved one. For example, many people admit that they or their partner have seen (either intentionally or accidentally) something their partner didn’t want them to see – this takes the form of messages (33%), web activity (31%) or photos, documents or files (29%)

In addition, not enough privacy can be the cause of friction within a relationship, with many couples admitting this is something that they argue about – 33% have argued because one of them has viewed something on a device which the other didn’t want to share.

Furthermore, 47% of those who fall into our “bad relationships” category argue about this compared to just a quarter (27%) of those who were classified as being in “good relationships”. And the figure rises to 66% of those who feel their privacy is endangered by their partner.


Chapter four: Precious to potent – can John and Amy work it out?

It’s always sad when a relationship ends. It happens. Get over it, John. But, as the sun sets, and we all move on, and it’s time to collect your stuff, what happens regarding the data we shared?

According to the study, one-in-ten have admitted that after a break up they have shared or wanted to share their ex’s private information publicly as revenge (12%). Men are more likely to do this – 17% of men have shared or wanted to share their ex’s information publicly as revenge compared to just 7% of women.

It’s possible this abuse of trust – or fear of an abuse of trust – could be one of the reasons why half of us delete our exes from our online worlds.

However, a sneaky third chose instead to spy on their ex via social networks (31%) or via an account that they had access to (21%). Women are the worse culprits for spying via social media (33% of women do this compared to 28% of men). Men, meanwhile, are more likely to spend their ex’s money online (15% of men compared to 6% of women) and damage a partner’s device after a break up (16% vs. 9%), limiting their ex’s ability to rebuild their private digital lives at all.



Protecting privacy is something we’re very passionate about at Kaspersky Lab, so here are a few tips from us on how you can protect your privacy, whatever your relationship status:

  1. Talk to each other! Be honest, but set privacy boundaries in place so that you both know what the other feels most comfortable with. Are you happy to share absolutely everything with each other? Great! Just make sure it’s a topic you’ve discussed before you go scrolling through each other’s photos or other files.
  2. Conceal the incoming calls or messages that need to stay secret. Organising an anniversary surprise for your other half, and you don’t want them to be able to work it out? The Privacy Protection feature in Kaspersky Internet Security for Android can hide the messages and calls you don’t want them to see – so that anniversary surprise remains protected from prying eyes!
  3. Don’t let Internet adverts give you away. Perhaps their birthday’s coming up and you don’t want them to know you’ve been researching a gift. Putting a solution in place to stop those adverts from revealing what you’ve been searching for is a great way of keeping that gift under wraps. Kaspersky Lab’s Private Browsing features does just that.
  4. Keep the romance alive with Valentine’s Day plans they can’t foil. Keeping your PC history clear is a great way of making sure they can’t see what files you’ve accessed, or what you’ve been up to online recently. The Privacy Cleaner feature in Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Total Security does just that and more – it detects and removes traces of user activity in the system (applications launch, opening/saving files by different applications, temporary files etc) to stop them working out your plans. In addition, the File Shredder feature in Kaspersky Total Security permanently deletes files to ensure they can’t be restored, helping you to keep your secrets safe.
  5. Give your devices strong passwords. Whether you share your devices with your partner or you want to keep your information protected, having strong passwords is key. Kaspersky Password Manager makes this easy, protecting user’s privacy and keeping data secure, so that you don’t have to worry about who’s reading those emails or looking through those pictures on your phone after all.

To find out more about these products or to discuss how to boost your Internet privacy – whether you’re in a romantic relationship or otherwise, visit the Kaspersky Lab website.


This content was created in partnership with our friends at Kaspersky Lab!


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