More than half of UAE residents believe their devices are spying on them

About a third of respondents are worried about isolation due to excessive tech use

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2018, file photo a child holds his Amazon Echo Dot in Kennesaw, Ga. Amazon met with skepticism from some privacy advocates and members of Congress last year when it introduced its first kid-oriented voice assistant , along with brightly colored models of its Echo Dot speaker designed for children. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)
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More than half of UAE residents think that their smart devices are spying on them and recording personal information without their knowledge, according to a new YouGov survey.

Smartphones are the device most likely involved in illegal monitoring, people believe, an online survey of 1,000 residents in the UAE found between April 8 and 15.

“While 85 per cent of people [in the UAE] own a smartphone, 55 per cent believe the technology is spying on them,” YouGov said. Similarly, when it comes to a computer or laptop with a webcam, 57 per cent of people own them and 36 per cent think those devices are spying on them.

Cyber criminals that are targeting UAE residents via their personal devices, however, may be motivated by things other than personal information, however, according to international security firm Symantec.

By illegally hacking into people's smart fridges and other internet-connected household items, attackers are taking control of memory space needed to help them mine cryptocurrency more efficiently, Hussam Sedani, Symantec's Middle East manager, told The National in March.

Unlike paper money, some cryptocurrencies can be earned by solving complicated mathematical problems that require vast amounts of memory space. By taking over systems belonging to others and pooling memory from numerous networks, criminals can speed up the mining process and generate more wealth.

YouGov's survey also found that many UAE residents have concerns about their online privacy.

Around half of residents polled find their personal documents or images being automatically uploaded on the cloud "very concerning", and nearly half (48 per cent) consider their personal details being automatically filled out when completing an online form "quite troubling".

A large number of respondents also find receiving mailers from brands they are not subscribed to (45 per cent) and getting friend suggestions on the basis of their recent history (41 per cent) – worrisome.

YouGov research also adds losing private data is UAE residents’ biggest tech-related fear (54 per cent). It is followed by social isolation due to excessive use of technology (35 per cent) and human interactions being replaced by Artificial Intelligence (34 per cent).