UK consumers value their digital lives at £25 billion

Published at 00:01 AM on 16 December 2013


  • Family photos are top of our list of most valued digital items
  • Unless you’re in London - Londoners rate their financial spreadsheets almost as highly as photos of loved ones – and more highly than anyone else in the country
  • A third of us still like the comfort of paper copies alongside our digital storage


UK consumers value their digital assets at £25 billion, according to a PwC survey of UK consumers.


This is the sum total of our personal digital assets – ranging from photos of loved ones to episodes of our favourite TV programmes.


But the survey also reveals that in spite of spending over £50 billion a year buying goods and services online, many of us are not doing enough to protect the digital assets we value and spend so much of our incomes on.


PwC’s survey of values and attitudes to our digital lives reveals that a third of us (31%) would not be able to replace some or any of the assets we have stored digitally if we lost them or if they were compromised in some way.


Richard Horne, PwC cyber security partner, said:


“Our digital lives are spread across a number of different devices and we all have, and store, digital assets ranging from books and games to music, spreadsheets, family photos and personal messages. Some have more sentimental than monetary value and we cannot put a value on them, yet we know if we lost them it would affect us dearly.


“It is time for us all to take stock of what we are keeping, think about how valuable it is and whether we are doing enough to protect it. We wouldn’t leave home without shutting and locking the front door, but we don’t do the same with our digital assets. We aren’t taking care of our valuables, not just the ones that have a monetary value but the ones that would be impossible or time-consuming and inconvenient to replace.


“Recent data from the British Retail Consortium of our spending on Cyber Monday (2nd December) shows we spent £450m online in a single day and yet we estimate our annual expenditure at around £50billion, so we are spending far more online than we think.


“As the digital economy grows and we build a digital world for ourselves, it is critical that we protect what matters most to each of us.”


What’s most important to us?


Photos of our loved ones are top of the list of things we like to store digitally (73%) followed by personal emails or other messages (69%) and music (57%).


Women value their photos more than men (61% to 43%). Men are more likely than women to choose personal documents and media content, such as films or TV programmes, as the digital assets they would be most keen to get back if lost.


Treasured photos are also the things we would be most likely to pay to recover if lost (52%). In distant second place is personal information such as financial documents (19%), with the exception of people in London who rate their spreadsheets of financial documents as more important than treasured photos.


How do we protect our digital valuables?


On the face of it, we are keenly aware of the need to protect our most valuable digital assets.

Over a third of us (36%) use external hard drives at home and 29% use cloud services.  But – perhaps surprisingly - we still like to fall back on paper copies, with 32% of consumers keeping paper copies to store our information. And some of us (9%) still don’t think any of the options are secure.


Richard Horne, PwC cyber security partner, said:


“More than half of us use the same password for our various accounts and devices and 22% of us use the same password for everything. This is a worry. It is down to us to make sure that what we value most is properly protected. It is commonplace for passwords to be compromised somewhere - having different passwords reduces the risk to you if one of them ends up in the hands of criminals. Businesses, government and consumers need to work together to protect our digital valuables and keep our digital lives secure.”


Perhaps contrary to expectations, the older generation are more security-savvy and less likely to use the same password (18%) for their various accounts and devices than the younger generation (29% of 18 to 34 year olds).


Richard Horne, PwC cyber security partner, said:


“These findings indicate that younger people, who have grown up with the internet, may be less aware of security risks and their views on privacy are more relaxed than the older generation.


“Young people today are more comfortable with a digital existence. They have grown up with sites such as Facebook and are used to a public profile and presence. Indeed, for them a digital existence is no less real than their offline world. They are perhaps a bit more blasé about digital security.”


A digital after-life?


Finally, a quarter of consumers say that nobody would be able to access their digital content after their deaths. That’s a huge amount of paid-for, or sentimentally-valuable, digital content lost forever.


Richard Horne, PwC cyber security partner, said:


“If our digital assets are so important to us, we should start thinking about what happens to them after we pass away. Do you want to bequeath your favourite songs, photos and TV programmes to your children? They form part of your estate, albeit digital, so why not? One day we may start to consider these assets in our wills, in the same way we think about other investments we have.


“What we choose to keep and store in our digital lives says a huge amount about us as people – to wit our Facebook pages – and forms part of our permanent digital legacy.”


Richard Horne, PwC cyber security partner, concluded:


"We undertook this survey for two reasons. Firstly to help individuals think through the risks of having more reliance on digital assets and processes. The other reason is to help people relate to one of the biggest challenges facing all businesses and organisations today - that of cyber security. If we as individuals are becoming ever more reliant on digital assets, imagine how much more so it is for organisations. Protecting those digital assets, even when managed by other parties, is now an imperative that no business can ignore."




Notes to editors


  1. We conducted an online survey of 2,002 UK adults between 22-24 November 2013. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.
  2. We worked out the total value of our digital assets by multiplying the average (£499) that we would pay to get our digital media back by the adult population of about 50 million).
  3. Respondents were asked to estimate how much they spent in total in the last month on products and services online. The mean average was £83.38 a month. Per year this equates to £1,000.51 and multiplied by a UK adult population of 50,371,000 (ONS, 2010 projection for 2013) gives us £50,396,922, 237.
  4. PwC has around 100 professionals specialising in cyber security, advising businesses on issues ranging from threat intelligence, detection and prevention to regulation, legal matters and the broader impact of breaches on business performance including people and culture. There are a further 400 professionals who support the cyber security practice and provide broader IT risk assurance services, including security.


About PwC


PwC helps organisations and individuals create the value they’re looking for. We’re a network of firms in 157 countries with more than 184,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax and advisory services. Tell us what matters to you and find out more by visiting us at

2013 PwC. All rights reserved


PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details


About PwC

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 157 countries with more than 208,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details. © 2016 PwC. All rights reserved

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