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Privacy a Main Concern When Using Mobile Apps
A new survey finds that consumers want more transparency, control, and choice.
Posted Apr 28, 2011
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Privacy is a "significant issue" for consumers when using a smartphone, according to a recent survey by TRUSTe. The 1,000 respondents reported they want transparency over what personal information is collected when using a mobile device.

Thirty-eight percent of consumers reported privacy as their number one concern when using mobile applications. Security followed with 26 percent, identity tracking at 19 percent, and sharing information with or without permission at 14 percent.

"Consumers seem to understand that the phone is attached to them, it has their location data, contacts, email, and a lot of other personal data about them and they hold it very privately," observes Fran Maier, president and executive chair of TRUSTe. "I think that's why privacy is one of the primary concerns."

In addition, the survey found consumers "crave" more control before fully trusting mobile applications. Ninety-eight percent of consumers reported having easy access to controls over their personal information in a mobile setting as important, while only 38 percent said they trust mobile applications to protect their privacy.

"What happens is that some consumers are not sharing as much information as they might otherwise or they are not using sites that request personal information or accessing their accounts on the mobile device because they are concerned," Maier explains. "The good news is that they are smart about it and they are likely to share information like their gender, but they aren't going to share information like their date of birth, phone number, or access to their contact lists."

On the other hand, Michael Fauscette, group vice president of software business solutions at IDC, believes consumers are actually accepting a loss of privacy in an increasingly digital age. "Over time, you get used to more," he says. "I think people are getting used to sharing more, and they are willing to accept that certain types of things that were private aren't private anymore. We also have certain expectations that have shifted because we just live our lives more online than we ever have."

Facebook, Fauscette continues, is largely responsible for consumers' shifts in attitudes. "They go one step too far, so they go three steps forward, and to apologize they go two steps backwards, but they have already gone a step forward that you didn't know about," he says.

But, ensuring consumers their information is private is also important for the long-term success of mobile ecommerce, Maier adds. TRUSTe's independent analysis of the top 340 free mobile applications revealed that only 25 percent include a link to a privacy survey. This is problematic because 51 percent of consumers said they look for a privacy policy on mobile applications.

Along with the survey results, TRUSTe also published a list of recommendations for businesses to ensure better privacy for consumers. It includes the following:

  • Get serious about privacy.
  • Always ask before collecting location data.
  • Offer opt-outs for mobile ad targeting.
  • Give consumers transparency and choice.
  • Get your app privacy-certified.


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