Privacy concerns grow among smartphone users
Fewer than four in 10 smartphone users said they feel in control of their personal information when using their phone, according to a new survey from TrustE.
The survey, conducted among 1,000 U.S. smartphone users by Harris Interactive for TrustE, indicates that app publishers should be more open about what information they’re collecting and how they’re using it, according to Fran Maier, TrustE’s president and executive chair. The latest example: last week’s disclosures that both Apple and Google are collecting location data from users’ smartphones.
“For too long, the industry didn’t feel the need to be completely transparent,” Maier said in a phone interview. “Unfortunately that lack of knowledge among users leads to a degradation of the trust relationship when things like [the Apple and Google disclosures] come out. The best way to fix that is to be much more open about what’s being collected.”
In the survey, just 37% of respondents said they feel in control of their personal information when using their smartphone. Eighty-five percent said they restrict at least some type of information sharing on apps. Only 65%, however, specified that they would not be willing to share account information such as a username or password.
The survey distinguishes between privacy (information is shared with others without your permission), security (virus or spyware on your phone), sharing (your information is shared with other with or without your permission) and identity (your information is used to determine who you are).
That users are more concerned about privacy than security “reflects how personal the phone is to each of us,” said Maier.
App users are most comfortable sharing their email address, full name, age and location with a “first party” (the owner of the app). They are least likely to share access to their contact list, photos or videos, or their website surfing behavior.
While the majority of all respondents (82%) believe privacy and security are more important than convenience when creating an account or registering on a mobile device, the youngest users in the survey (ages 18-24) trended toward convenience, with 43% saying that the ability to use Facebook or another existing account across different accounts was more important than security or privacy.
About four in 10 said they would be willing to share personal information in exchange for a free or lower-cost app. They would be most willing to share their gender (78%), email address (75%), full name (65%) or age (62%).
Smartphone users are less interested in being tracked by advertisers. Nearly three-quarters (74%) are not comfortable with the idea of advertiser tracking and 85% said they would like to be able to opt in or out of targeted mobile ads.
Pushing the TrustE value proposition, Maier said consumers would benefit from better ways to filter apps that have privacy certifications. This would help separate the legitimate app developers from those that are motivated to collect and sell audience data.
“There are thousands of apps out there,” she said, “and many small companies have not made privacy a priority.”