Data security company Symantec “lost” 50 smartphones on purpose, just to see what happened when someone found them.

On those phones was a variety of simulated corporate and personal data information, along with the program that monitored what was done with them when they were found by someone. The phones were “accidentally” left in public places in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Ottawa, Canada.

First the good news – there are good Samaritans out there. 50% of the finders of those phones tried to return them. However, even those good Samaritans gave into human nature and were nosy, according to Symantec.

Almost 90% of the phones that were found were looked through. Finders browsed both personal and business related data. The study found that many of the finders spent close to an hour looking through items on the smartphone.

How’s this for tempting? One of the folders on the phone was marked ‘private photos.’ That folder was opened by finders 72% of the time. In approximately 60% of the cases, the finder attempted to look through the personal e-mail inbox on the phone.

Symantec published a lot of interesting information about how they set up and conducted this study. It’s on their site here.

Of course, Symantec also recommends certain procedures to keep data on smartphones safer. These include using a screen lock, using security software, and keeping track of the phone.