Some people at a software company wanted to find out what happens when people find a cell phone.
Do they keep it, or return it? What do they do with it?
They found out that half of the people people who find a cell phone returned it. However, in nearly every case, the “finder” first looked through the information on the phone, checking out the owner’s photos, emails and apps.
In his experiment, Scott Wright, who works for Security Perspectives Inc., left 50 cell phones in various places in five cities in Canada and the United States. He left them out so they would look like they had been accidentally lost.
The five cities were Los Angeles, New York, Ottawa, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Wright left phones in restaurants, elevators, phone booths, on newspaper boxes and in public washrooms.
Twenty-five of the people who found a phone tried to return it to its owner.
Ninety-six per cent—48 people—snooped through the phone.
Each phone had software in it so that Wright could tell what the finders were doing with it. Wright watched remotely as people looked in files that had names like banking, email and “private pix.” In other words, the names of the files clearly indicated that they contained private information that should be off-limits to strangers. But people snooped anyway. In fact, many people tried more than once to get into the files.
More phones were returned in Ottawa than in any other city: seven out of 10. That compares with New York City, where just three phones were returned.
Some of the “finders” used the phone for an extended period of time, checking out personal information and making calls. One person in Ottawa spent several days checking out the phone’s banking information and photos.
Wright said he was surprised and disappointed that so many people snooped into the phones’ private information.
Information in this article was abridged from an article in The Globe and Mail and Canadian Press, by Michael Oliveira. You can read that article here.