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Privacy on the smartphone: a European comparison

Hardly any other device is entrusted with as much private information as your own smartphone. This makes it all the more important to have comprehensive data protection features integrated in the operating system and to customize all privacy settings. Only recently, the innovation leader Apple introduced new, stricter data protection rules on the iPhone operating system iOS. To the annoyance of data-hungry companies, customers can now decide for themselves which apps are allowed to collect data for marketing purposes and which are not. Shortly afterwards, Google followed suit with its Android operating system. This is not the first time that Apple has presented itself as a pioneer in terms of smartphone security and data protection.

We wanted to do a little investigation to find out how the smartphone security of users in Europe is doing. To this end, we have evaluated relevant survey values, such as the distribution of security systems or the use of privacy settings, from 25 European countries. A smartphone security score was then determined from this. A maximum of 600 points could be awarded. The closer a country comes to this value, the higher the country's smartphone security level can be rated.


High level of data protection in Germany, backlog in Spain

With 439/600 points, smartphone users in Germany have an above-average level of security. 87 percent of Germans know that their smartphone has security functions and privacy settings. 65 percent of the respondents from Germany actually use these features actively. 97 percent report that they have never had problems with viruses or other malware. The data from Austria also testify to a broad understanding of data protection and privacy on smartphones. Austria's smartphone security score is 412/600 points. 98 percent of Austrians know that they can adjust their privacy settings individually.

North Macedonia and Spain in particular need some catching up to do in terms of smartphone security and data protection. With 216/600 points, Spain does above-average badly in a European comparison. Only one in three Spaniards even knows that many smartphones have a security system pre-installed.

Graphic iOS market share

The spread of Apple's iPhone has only a marginal impact on the level of data protection and security in Europe. Countries in which Apple has high market shares, such as Ireland, Denmark and Norway, also achieve relatively high values ​​in the smartphone security score. But there are also individual exceptions, such as the United Kingdom. Countries in which Apple only has a small market share, however, do comparatively poorly in terms of security. These countries include, for example, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania and Spain.


Country selection: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Romania, Hungary, United Kingdom

Factors, Definitions, and Sources for Poll Results

Security in the operating system:
Percentage of respondents whose smartphones have a security system integrated into the operating system

Security through apps: Percentage of respondents who have installed a third-party security system such as an app provider

Knowledge of smartphone security: Percentage of respondents who know that their smartphone has a security system installed

Safe users: Percentage of respondents who state that they have never had security problems

Active users: Percentage of respondents who individually adjust their privacy settings
Source: All information is based on data from the Statistical Office of the European Union "Trust, security and privacy - smartphones".

Apple iOS market share: Information on this was manually sourced for all countries except Poland Statcounter (Status: August 2021) taken. For Poland was Motto Atlas used as a source.

Calculation: In order to determine the smartphone security score, all survey values ​​were standardized. Points on a scale between 0 and 100 were used for this. The nation that was most progressive in terms of smartphone security in each survey received a score of 100. The nation that was least progressive in terms of smartphone security in the respective survey received a score of 0. All other nations ranked accordingly your score with a score in between. Then all the points for each nation were added up. The total resulted in the smartphone security score. The maximum possible number of points is 600 points. The closer the smartphone security score comes to the value of 600 points, the higher the smartphone security level of the nation examined.