Have you ever walked away from your laptop and had a sneaking suspicion that your friend, date, or family member was about to snoop through your Facebook? According to a recent study from the University of British Columbia, your intuition probably isn't far off: Nearly one in four study participants reported that they would look through someone else's laptop or phone without their permission — and one in five specified that they'd look through the person's Facebook account during their search.
Conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia, the study polled 1,308 adult Facebook users to gain some insight into "social insider attacks" — that is, the kind of abuse "where attackers know their victims, and gain access to a victim’s account by interacting directly with their device," as the study put it.
And here's where it gets even weirder: In addition to the number of people who said they would look through someone's device or Facebook account without their permission, 21 percent of those surveyed also said they knew someone else had done the same thing to them. That's right: The disconcerting experience of having someone go through their own personal information was not enough to dissuade some participants from doing the same thing to somebody else.
It is worth noting that these snoop sessions occurred when the device was left unprotected, meaning that snoopers did not go so far as to hack someone's password. But still: This invasion of privacy is real, even if you are just feeling a little curious or hoping to leave a "funny" status as a prank.
What can you do to protect yourself against people snooping? The most obvious thing is to secure your devices and accounts with passwords and not leave them open for others to access. While using a passcode or fingerprint ID isn't absolutely foolproof (you'll still need to, you know, log yourself out and keep your browser from autofilling your login information), it should provide you a decent layer of security against "innocent" snoopers who are just trying to take a ridiculous selfie with your webcam and set it as your computer background.
If for whatever reason you prefer not using passwords, you are unfortunately leaving yourself open to snooping that can range from innocent to dangerous: After all, many of us leave our bank information, work emails, and private images on our computers and phones. Do you trust every single person you meet for coffee or a study session with all of that info? If not, it's probably better to be safe than sorry and secure your devices.
Stay safe out there, tech friends!