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Smartphone users value privacy above all: TRUSTe

April 27, 2011

A privacy policy is a must-have for mobile Web and apps

Of the 340 mobile apps and Web sites analyzed by TRUSTe, a mere 20 percent were found to have a privacy policy.

The study, which included 1,000 total interviews of participants who own or use a smartphone, was conducted among Harris Interactive’s online consumer panel. Research objectives included how smartphone users feel about their privacy on a mobile device, specific elements users are concerned with, precautions they can take to protect their privacy and reaction to and impact of a “trust mark” provided by TRUSTe.

“The key finding is people don’t like being tracked for their location because they think it is for advertising purposes,” said Fran Maier, president of TRUSTe, San Francisco.

“Their smartphones are attached to them and privacy is a big deal now because the phone knows all of this information and all these apps tell marketers what consumers are doing, where they are and what they are interested in,” she said.

Privacy concerns
The most commonly used smartphone operating systems are iPhone, BlackBerry and Google’s Android, according to TRUSTe.

The study found that nine in 10 smartphone users have downloaded at least one application for their phone and that users spend the greatest percentage of their smartphone time—36 percent—making phone calls.

Texting, emailing, surfing the Web, playing games and social networking are also common activities.

In the midst of these activities, privacy ranks as the No. 1 concern for users. This concern increases with age.

Ninety-eight percent of consumers want better controls over how their personal information is collected and 85 percent want to be able to opt into or out of targeted mobile ads.

Seventy-seven percent of consumers do not want to share their location data with app owners and developers.

The most common preventative action taken to maintain privacy is to create a strong password.

“The form factor of the smartphone makes it hard for a privacy policy,” Ms. Maier said. “But there needs to be one.

“We analyzed 340 mobile apps and Web sites and only 20 percent had a privacy policy,” she said. “That is not nearly enough.”

Putting trust in TRUSTe
Consumers are most uncomfortable sharing their geo-location data, according to TRUSTe’s findings. A small number of consumers feel they have a choice regarding the collection and use of location information, though the incidence is higher among iPhone and Android smartphone users.

Uniquely sensitive personal information like a phone number also tops the list of type of data that consumers are not open to sharing with marketers.
Additionally, consumers are not comfortable with having their behavior tracked for advertising purposes.

About 40 percent of consumer would be willing to share personal information in exchange for a free or lower cost mobile app, although there are limitations.

TRUSTe offers companies a privacy certification program to help build customer trust regarding the data collected within mobile applications or Web sites.

“Brands and marketers need to make privacy something they are working on,” Ms. Maier said. “They have to give people the option to opt-in.

“We find that asking usually delivers more comfort and trust and makes consumers more open to sharing their location and other data,” she said.

Final Take
Mackenzie Allison is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily

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