A survey by Harris Interactive found that 48 percent of tablet users questioned have transferred “sensitive” data using the device, compared to 30 percent of smartphone users.
In both cases, users were more open to transferring personal use data than business data: 42 percent to 20 percent with tablets, and 26 percent to 14 percent with smartphones.
Breaking the results down by demographic produces some consistent patterns: men are more confident about using a tablet or smartphone for sensitive information, and with both devices the younger the person, the more likely they are to transfer sensitive data.
There are some major caveats about the findings, however. First of all, it was an online survey that was “not based on a probability sample”, meaning there’s no way to estimate how accurately it represents the entire population.
Secondly, the responses depend very much on how the respondent interprets “sensitive data.” For example, I’d expect the vast majority of tablet device owners have typed in a webmail address and password at some point. At the other extreme, you’d hope very few people are using a tablet to send their bank account number and PIN over an unprotected Wi-Fi connected to a site that isn’t using https:// encryption.
There may be an psychological explanation for the main tablet vs smartphone security point, though. Somebody using a tablet — even though its on a wireless connection — may think of it in the same way as a computer, where it’s well established people are usually happy to transmit sensitive data (being as computers are among the main ways of communicating any data.)
With a smartphone — even one that might be running similar or identical software to a tablet — there’s still the more of a psychological reminder that any information you send is literally beamed through the air.