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No such thing as a personal device?

Younger people are least likely to keep their devices completely personal.

A family of three performing different activities

Key findings

Graphs showing a percentage of US people with different computer sharing habits

Personal devices are not that personal

Around half of respondents said they share personal devices, mostly with family members. This has significant implications for mobile device security and digital education, as most privacy advice focuses on individual users rather than groups that use shared devices. Our research shows that we need to pay much more attention to sharers and shared device protection.

Graphs showing that younger millennials share their devices the most

Different groups share differently

Younger millennials (aged 25-34) share their devices the most. This is likely because they have the most contact with different groups. That is, younger millennials may share devices (1) with their partners, (2) parents, and (3) with their (potentially young) children.

Map showing countries that monitor their children online

Two-thirds monitor their children online

Around two-thirds of respondents claimed they track their children’s online activity and 20-25% monitor their partners. VPN users are more likely to track their children and partners, suggesting that greater security awareness makes people more likely to take responsibility for the security of those closest to them.

Chart showing people stay logged onto their work VPNs for longer each day

The work-life unbalance

The pandemic has blurred the lines between work and leisure — users have been staying logged onto their work VPNs for longer each day during the quarantine. And it’s just one aspect of work intruding on life. Around a third of respondents (35% in the UK and 30% in the US) keep work files on personal devices, which can compromise data and network security.

A young man and a woman holding devices in their hands

Privacy is a group effort

Whether it is making sure your family stays private online, protecting your work data, or upgrading your laptop security — we need to work on it together. Better privacy tools and skills are necessary for everyone. Sharing is part of online life, so we must learn to share the responsibility to keep ourselves and our friends and family safer online.

web laptop family swing read research

Get the full report here

Click the button below to download the full report on personal devices sharing habits.

Methodology and sources

Before delving into numbers, we had to answer some questions. What makes a device personal? Is it a matter of ownership or control over what happens to it? Actually, it’s a bit of all these things. Sharing is natural, particularly as so much of our lives are enhanced by devices.

This report draws on data taken from several surveys across the globe and in specific national settings. The first source is a pair of surveys on Encryption Habits in the US and UK. These surveys were conducted on April 7, 2020, through a Pollfish panel. Each survey had N=700 residents aged 18+ in the UK and the US, with representative sampling including specific quotas across age and gender.

The second source is a survey on Monitoring Family Members, conducted on January 21, 2021, through CINT. It included people aged 18+ from eight countries (US, Canada, Australia, UK, Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Poland). The nationally representative sample size was 1000 people per country, for a total of 8000 respondents.

The third source is Cyber Security Potential, a survey of 1000 NordVPN users taken in July 2020. We also draw on data from our VPN for business product NordLayer. We compared the busiest times of day for business VPN servers pre-pandemic during March-April of 2020 and again in January of 2021. No user data was collected, but the VPN server usage indicates the activity of business users and, by extension, those connected to their work network from home.

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