Top Phone Privacy Fears

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A new survey finds that more than half of Americans fear that friends or family will see what they have stored on their phones. What are their top fears? And if you share those fears, what can you do about it?

Top Fears

Shockingly, 9% of American men keep naked photos of others on their phones – and 7% store naked photos of themselves. For women, the numbers are less than half as much, but still significant: 3% of women surveyed admit to storing nude photos of themselves on their phones. But the top fear isn’t porn being seen by others – it’s bank account information.

Here are the top privacy fears, by percent of respondents expressing fears that this information could seen by people they know (as opposed to being discovered by strangers if the phone is lost or stolen):

  • Bank information – 25%
  • Emails or texts sent – 24%
  • Emails or texts received – 23%
  • Websites visited – 15%
  • Porn – 10%
  • Naked selfies – 8%

The survey was commissioned by Clean Master – a free app for Android that clears your phone’s cache of residual and junk files, along with browsing history – which has a vested interest in bringing fear to the public’s attention. But that said, these fears of snooping seem legitimate.

Who Snoops

According to a different survey earlier this year – this one from phone security company Lookout – 32% of all respondents admitted to looking at text messages, photos, and emails on a loved one’s phone without permission.


Of course, the obvious solution is not to store anything on your phone that you don’t want others to see. Plus, you should absolutely enable a passcode lock to prevent unauthorized access to your device. But if you want to turn the tables on the snooper, here’s how:

Android Tools For Catching Snoopers

It’s easiest to play detective on an Android phone. Install the app HiddenEye, and if someone incorrectly enters your passcode, it snaps a picture. This is all done very stealthily so the snooper has no idea he or she is being photographed. The next time you fire up your phone, the photo gallery will have pictures of anyone who’s attempted to crack your password. You can also set it up so the photos are stored remotely via Dropbox. This adds an added layer of security if your phone is stolen or out of your possession.

Lookout’s basic phone tracking app is free, but for $2.99 a month, you can get extra features like locking your phone remotely (via your computer) and then instructing the phone to take a picture of anyone trying to break the passcode. Those pictures are automatically uploaded to your web account for remote viewing. This is more of a security feature than a stealthy way to get proof of a phone spy, since the lock screen is branded with the Lookout logo and specifically says it’s locked for security purposes. But it will work at home if you set the trap and your snooper falls for it.

[Related: Who’s Looking at Your Facebook Page? Can You Really Find Out? ]

Options for iPhones

On an iPhone the options aren’t as good. The best app is called WhoSnooped. It costs $.99 and is more of a novelty than a forensic tool. It doesn’t run all the time; instead you have to set a trap. You open up the app and then lock your phone, leaving it out for the snooper to find. When they slide the lock screen button, the WhoSnooped app opens up and takes a picture of them while displaying the banner “Stop Snooping.” The snooper could easily delete the photo in the app, leaving you with no proof of intrusion. That said, the app let’s the snooper know they are being watched, and it may deter future attempts.

A different idea for the iPhone comes from iTrust. It costs $.99, and unlike the other apps that take a picture of the snooper, iTrust records video of the icons a snooper touches as they attempt to open apps. When we tested it, the playback showed a simulated fingerprint of the snooper trying to open text messages, photos and address book. Unfortunately the app is a little rough and we’re not sure it would work well in the real world. It asks you to take a picture of your home screen and then you have to fire up the app and leave it running to catch the snooper. Worse, the way the app places the picture of the home screen isn’t quite right; and a wary snooper might put it down immediately when seeing the home screen slightly off center.

Do you have a secret for catching a phone snooper? We’d like to hear it in the comments or on our Facebook page.

[Related: Are You Being Monitored at Work? ]