People don’t realize their love for their data, until it’s too late

- Adrian Ungureanu
Information concept: computer keyboard with Head With Padlock icon and word Data Loss, selected focus on enter button, 3d render

The old adage ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone’ seems more relevant than ever for the digital age, with new research by Kaspersky Lab showing that while people claim that they understand the value of their data, in reality they don’t appreciate its importance until it is lost.

People even break out in a cold sweat when they think they have lost data that they previously deemed ‘trivial’. These findings, which are part of Kaspersky Lab’s ‘My Precious Data’ study, reveal how distressing it is to lose data – even when that data hasn’t necessarily been deemed as ‘important’ or particularly valuable by its owner.

During the study people agreed that their most personally important data (‘private and sensitive photos and videos of myself’) was also the most distressing type of data to lose. Yet, data considered less important by people also turned out to be surprisingly traumatic to lose. For example, the prospect of losing contact details is considered highly distressing for many, putting it in the top three most distressing types of data to lose, despite the fact that contact details generally rank much lower in terms of data ‘importance’.

The study thus revealed contradictions in the importance people place on their data, and the reality of the distress they experience when they lose data that they didn’t, at first, deem that important to them.

As part of the study, Kaspersky Lab worked with psychologists at the University of Wuerzburg to measure people’s physical reactions to data loss in a series of three experiments. While the psychologists expected to see much stronger reactions to the loss of important data, they were surprised to find that participants showed signs of distress when they lost trivial data too.

During testing, psychologists measured electrodermal activity (changes in the skin’s sweat glands), while users were most likely to break a sweat when they believed they had lost important data, sweat levels weren’t that far behind when trivial data was considered lost by participants.