Smartphone users concerned with UK security service’s ability to track and control devices

  • 55% of smartphone users surveyed say they’re concerned with the UK security service’s ability to take control of smartphones. Users are most concerned that these powers are open to abuse (53%), whilst 24% think they’re a breach of human rights and 23% say the extent of their powers is not justifiable. 
  • 59% say they don’t believe their smartphone is secure from hackers and thieves. When asked why, users say they don’t fully trust the available security methods (57%) and don’t have confidence in their ability to use security features and software (36%).
  • 64% of smartphone users believe mobile payment/digital wallet systems aren’t secure

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Edward Snowden’s recent revelation that the UK security services can control smartphones has got users worried with over half (55%) of smartphone owners in a recent survey expressing concerns with these powers. Top of the list of concerns is the fear the powers will be abused (53%), whilst users also believe they breach their human rights (23%) and the extent of the powers is not justifiable (23%). 

For the users who have no concerns with these powers (45%), their reasons are they have nothing to hide (65%), the powers are needed to protect the country (18%), and they feel it will be used appropriately (14%).

This research comes as Edward Snowden, the US whistleblower, revealed that the UK intelligence agency GCHQ had the power to hack into phones without their owners’ knowledge. The set of tools, according to Snowden, is called “Smurf Suite” and gives the security agencies the ability to carry out a range of remote control spying activity such as turning on the phone's microphone and powering the phone on and off.

The survey also revealed that 65% had heard of Snowden, but there were mixed opinions when asked if he was right to leak classified information with just over half (57%) agreeing with his decision. 

Head of Strategy for, Rob Hilborn, says: “The government justifies these powers by saying it is to combat terrorism and save lives, yet it’s not clear how such capabilities help achieve these goals. Real criminals who have something to hide will know how to obscure their activity, while regular British citizens feel their private lives are coming under ever more scrutiny.”

When it comes to personal smartphone security, 59% of users say they don’t feel safe from hackers and thieves, citing a lack of trust in the available security methods (57%). Of concern is the fact that some 36% said they do not feel confident in their ability to use security features and software. 

The most popular security methods are the lock screen PIN (52%), anti-virus software (24%), lock screen password (16%) and lock screen pattern (15%). Worryingly 20% of users said they’re unsure if they have security systems on their phone, or have no security tools activated.

Apple CEO Tim Cook boasted earlier this year that the launch of digital wallet service Apple Pay would “forever change the way all of us buy things”. However, according to the Broadband Genie survey only 5% of users have started using a digital wallet like Apple Pay, and just 16% planned to use it in the future. When asked if users believed mobile payment/digital wallet systems were secure, 64% answered no. 

“Smartphone users seem to be taking a cautious approach to adopting mobile payment systems at this point, which is what you might expect from a technology still in its infancy. However, easing users security concerns with these systems will be an incredibly important hurdle for payment providers tackle if they're to convince more smartphone users to use this technology.””


For further information please contact
Rob Hilborn on 01223 501 344 or [email protected]
Matt Powell on  or [email protected]

Notes to editors
1578 smartphone users from across the country were surveyed. The research was conducted online between the 22nd October – 6th November 2015. The full data is available here:

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