KUALA LUMPUR: Consumer concerns over mobile privacy are threatening to limit the wider adoption of mobile apps across Asia and may restrict the development of targeted ads by marketers, new research has revealed.

The GSMA, a mobile trade body, in association with local mobile operators, surveyed 1,500 mobile users in each of two markets – Indonesia and Malaysia – and found widespread anxiety about the use of apps to collect personal information without permission.

Fully 86% of mobile internet users in Malaysia and 80% in Indonesia were worried about this. And over half of those with such concerns limited their use of apps as a result.

At the same time, they were prepared to use apps more if they felt sure their personal information was better safeguarded.

Some 71% mobile internet users in Malaysia and 73% in Indonesia indicated they would consider receiving targeted location-based advertising from a company that asked for their permission first.

Tom Phillips, Chief Government and Regulatory Affairs Officer at the GSMA, urged developers of mobile apps and services to adopt best practice guidelines on privacy such as those published by the GSMA and the NTIA.

"Being honest and transparent with customers boosts their confidence and trust when engaging with what you have to offer," he said.

The research also found that while mobile users value their privacy, they do not want to be burdened by long, legalistic privacy notices before they can use an app but would prefer to see the use of short, simple and easily recognisable icons to help them understand what they are agreeing to.

For example, the GSMA suggested that an app wanting to share a user's location with advertisers could display a graphic icon and require them to agree. This, it said, would strengthen users' trust with mobile service providers and apps and encourage them to interact with those services more, benefitting both themselves and business.

Greater control over their personal data emerged as a key demand from consumers. Seventy-three per cent of Indonesian users and 69% of Malaysians said they wanted to be able to set their own preferences for the types and timing of ads they received on their mobile devices.

Data sourced from GSMA; additional content by Warc staff