back to top

Survey Shows The Personal Data We Most Fear Being Made Public

From search histories to texts, all the things you'd never want to be made public, as ranked by a new survey.

Posted on

But what is the very last thing you'd want to be made public? What would mortify you the most?

Lascivious Snapchat messages might come to mind, but a new survey of nearly 1,000 people aged 18 to 34 says for that for many, it's our financial lives that would embarrass us the most — specifically, our bank statements.

The survey, carried out by security software company Trustev, found that about 42% of respondents said they would be "mortified" or "very embarrassed" if their bank statements were stolen and posted online.

According to Trustev Chief Marketing Officer Rurik Bradbury, not only do bank statements reveal the truth about your finances, but for debit card users (and especially younger people, who prefer debit cards over credit cards), bank statements become "a proxy for what you spend money on," as they list itemized transactions.

"Grandma would be horrified by having family pics or baby pics on the internet. Today, we're so used to sharing personal pics and problems, but are sensitive about what we earn and spend on," said Bradbury.

Next on the mortifying list is browsing history, a window looking directly into the dark corners of the mind. Curiosities, pleasures, fears; things we secretly want to know, and then the things we don't know but should. Think about what you recently looked at at work; then after work. And then think of what you've searched for on your phone. Would you be proud of it? Would you?

More than one-third of people were embarrassed by their browsing histories. "It's very much also in the eye of the beholder," Bradbury said. "People who stalk their exes and who google other people would be more leery of having that out versus boring people who search for gadgets."

Photos came in third, with nearly 30% of respondents saying they would be embarrassed.

Snapchat was ranked only the tiniest bit more mortifying than Facebook pics, which themselves were slightly worse than Amazon histories.

As for differences between men and women, women were generally more mortified than men by the prospect of any of these things being made public. Those aged 18 to 24 were more easily embarrassed than people 25 to 34, with one interesting exception: their bank statements.

It's possible older people have more money to spend and therefore more opportunities to make embarrassing purchases than their younger counterparts. But they definitely don't want us to know about them.

Venessa Wong is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Wong covers the food industry.

Contact Venessa Wong at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.