People rate their smartphones more highly than friends, family: Study

  • A third of consumers willing to ditch their friends for their smartphone
  • Yet 93% willingly give away their smartphone PIN when asked
People rate their smartphones more highly than friends, family: Study

AN experiment which asked participants to rate various people and objects in their lives in order of importance has discovered that 37.4% of participants rate their smartphone as more, or equally, important as their close friends.
The results of the experiment, which was conducted by the universities of Würzburg and Nottingham Trent on behalf of Kaspersky Lab, show that smartphones are set to overtake friends in importance, the cybersecurity company said in a statement.

  • 29.4% of participants said their smartphone was equally important, or more important, to them than their parents;
  • 21.2% said their smartphone was equal to, or more important, than their partner; and
  • 16.7% rated their smartphone in the highest importance category, although only 1.1% said their smartphone was more important than anything else in their life.

The experiment asked participants to position images representing various people and objects in their lives, in relation to themselves on a diagram of a chessboard, Kaspersky Lab said.
While family, friends and pets were generally placed closer to the participant than their smartphone, many other significant people in the participant’s lives – including the people they work or study with every day – took a backseat compared with their digital companions.
Despite the value placed on devices as a source of entertainment, information and data storage, participants in a supporting experiment were more than happy to share their smartphone PIN (personal identification number) when asked, exposing access to all their personal and sensitive information.
During the experiment 93% of participants gave away the PIN to their digital best friend when asked, the company said.
“Our phones are an integral part of our lives, and this study brings psychological proof of this,” said University of Würzburg media psychologist Astrid Carolus, who led the study.
“Our friend-like connection with our smartphones means that we place an incredible degree of trust in an inanimate object – so much so that we consider it a closer and more important element of our lives than many other people.
“With this in mind, we were surprised to see that it was nevertheless very easy for us to get hold of smartphone PIN codes,” she added.
The experimenters asked people to sit in a waiting room for a period of time, and then asked them for their body height and smartphone PIN code.
Without much hesitation the vast majority of people gave it.
“This is worrying because it suggests that we are willing to put our digital friends – and the data they hold – at risk,” said Carolus.
Equating a digital device with human qualities is nothing new. Experiments in the 1990s found that people ascribed human traits to computers when interacting with them.
People rate their smartphones more highly than friends, family: StudyKaspersky Lab senior security researcher David Emm (pic) said there were security implications of having an emotional connection with a device.
“Following on from last year’s study into Digital Amnesia – the phenomenon that suggests we forget the information we entrust to our devices – this latest experiment further proves the strong emotional connection we have with our phones.
“Another interesting finding was that people rate their smartphones as far more important to them as laptops or other devices that hold the same degree of information, highlighting the symbolic role our phones have for us as digital companions, forever at our side.
“Having this emotional relationship with your smartphone can mean your decision process when it comes to protecting the data stored on it is more limited.
“We already know many people forget to secure their smartphones, as they view them almost as an extension of themselves, and this can make them vulnerable to cybercriminals,” he said.
Ascribing more importance to our phones than real-life friends and acquaintances shows just how important it is to secure the information we entrust them with, Kaspersky Lab said.
Over the last two years, the company has been researching the social effects of digitalisation and how this makes people potentially more vulnerable to cybercrime. An overview of the results is available at
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