When love backfires

We investigate how couples often neglect privacy — and the consequences.

We often talk about the importance of protecting your personal data from other people. Modern technologies are great for sharing all sorts of things, but there’s a flip side to the coin: keeping secrets is becoming increasingly difficult.

A recent global study by Kaspersky Lab and the research company Toluna found that 8 out of 10 people agree that everyone should have their own personal space, and yet people are prone to oversharing and not being vigilant about their private information.

The boundaries of personal space are particularly blurred in romantic relationships. Our research shows that about half of all couples share passwords and PIN codes for their accounts and devices, and a quarter can unlock their partner’s gadgets with their own fingerprint. What’s more, a solid majority (70%) believes that a relationship is more important than privacy. Is that really the case? In this post, we’ll divulge where excessive “information intimacy” can lead.


Privacy for two


Starry-eyed couples share access to their devices to show they have nothing to hide. A great way to build trust, right? But what will a guy think about frank messages about him between his girlfriend and her friends? And how annoying for both partners would it be if one finds out in advance about a Valentine’s Day surprise! Would a photographer be able to explain to his beloved that an album full of younger models is for work, not pleasure? And could she convince him that she has no lingering feelings for an ex-classmate she’s meeting up with tomorrow?

Explanations will likely be needed: The study showed that about a third of respondents take a peek into their other half’s virtual life every once in a while. And of those who start to harbor doubts about the future of the relationship, almost half turn to spying.

Homegrown detectives occasionally get caught red-handed, resulting in a verbal shoot-out, or put their partner on the spot after stumbling across some compromising materials. One-third of respondents admitted to having quarreled after their other half saw information not intended for them.


What if things go really pear-shaped?


As you can see, blurring the boundaries of privacy does not make for a healthier relationship. Sometimes a tiff caused by a partner finding out something can lead to a breakup. What’s more, our study showed that one in four has materials of an intimate nature (messages, photos, videos) on their sweetheart’s device, and some trust their partner with financial and business data. After the split, all of this will likely remain in the possession of a potential enemy.

A jilted lover may have revenge on their mind. Consequently, 12% of respondents make — or have thought about making — their partners’ private information public, and just as many try to ruin their partners’ gadgets. Post-breakup, approximately one in five continues to spy on their ex through social media accounts — forgetfulness or laziness make it unlikely that the passwords have been changed. And 10% of broken hearts confessed that they had spent an ex-partner’s money online — probably in the grip of an emotional frenzy.

Interestingly, it’s mostly men who seek to punish former partners. About 17% of them post something private about their former partner after a breakup, and roughly the same number attempts to profit from their ex’s personal data. Among women, the figures are 7% and 8%, respectively. But spying on a former partner is (slightly) more of a female thing: one-third admitted to doing so; the stat for men was 28%. At the same time, the fairer sex is slightly more inclined to wipe their gadgets of all reminders of past relationships.


What to do?


Both men and women are advised to be less trigger-happy about sharing personal information. Preserving your reputation and finances — and cordial relations with a former partner — isn’t impossible. But remember that love doesn’t mean sharing everything, especially when it comes to sensitive information. We recommend that budding soulmates follow a few simple rules:

  • Set the boundaries of your personal space from the get-go. You each have information that only you should know. It’s important that both of you understand that partners in a trusting relationship have secrets.
  • Think carefully about which passwords you want to share with your other half, and which ones you don’t. In the event of a breakup, don’t forget to change the passwords your partner knows. Managing passwords is far easier with the help of a password manager — for example, Kaspersky Password Manager.
  • Don’t leave compromising information on your partner’s devices. Should they become an ex, make sure files are erased — and use File Shredder in Kaspersky Total Security to make sure the files can’t be retrieved and used against you.