Apps spark consumer privacy concerns

25 September 2014

LONDON: More than one third of UK consumers say they have deleted an app on their mobile device because of concerns about the use to which their personal data is being put.

A survey for law firm Osborne Clarke and app developer Mubaloo found that 35% of respondents had done so and that only one quarter trusted companies to protect the data gathered through mobile apps, MediaTel reported.

"Companies need to constantly review their position in relation to using consumers' data," said Osborne Clarke. "What may be well perceived to be acceptable one week, may have massively changed the next because of a change in regulations or the enforcement agenda of the regulators, or a leak or flaw being exploited."

It pointed to a study undertaken for regulator Ofcom earlier this year in which in-app purchasing and in-app advertising appeared as greater concerns than privacy.

That study also noted a clear difference between what app users claim to do and what they actually do. "Whilst many users said that they would refuse certain permissions, in reality most simply download and use the apps without fully looking at permission details," it said.

A separate survey of over 1,200 mobile apps by 26 privacy regulators from across the world recently found that a high number of apps accessed large amounts of personal information without adequately explaining how that was being used.

The Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) said 85% of apps surveyed failed to clearly explain how they were collecting, using and disclosing personal information while around 1 in 3 apps appeared to request an excessive number of permissions to access additional personal information.

Further, 59% of these apps left users struggling to find basic privacy information, while 43% were guilty of not tailoring privacy communications adequately for smaller mobile screens.

Dr. Mark Mason, CEO and founder of Mubaloo, said customers were prepared to share a certain amount of personal information if they could see the value in an app. "Businesses need to understand that the balance between perceived value and disclosure is very delicate and transparency over data usage is absolutely essential," he stated.

Data sourced from MediaTel, Ofcom, ICO; additional content by Warc staff