TrustArc Blog

TRUSTe Study Reveals Smartphone Users More Concerned About Mobile Privacy Than Brand or Screen Size

September 05, 2013

Dave Deasy – VP Marketing | TRUSTe
@davedeasy

The smartphone and apps markets experienced explosive growth last year, to the extent that there are now more smartphones on the planet than people – 217 million were purchased worldwide in the final quarter of 2012 alone.

But the complexity of the current mobile ecosystem raises new consumer privacy concerns.  Mobile device users are sharing information about their daily lives with a number of third parties – sometimes willingly, sometimes not.

While regulators in the US and Europe have moved to keep up with these issues and address consumer concerns, the question is how much users understand about who can access their information and how those third parties are using it.  What kind of personal information do they feel comfortable sharing and how do they control their privacy?

The answer to these questions – and many more – are revealed in the latest TRUSTe 2013 Consumer Data Privacy Study: Mobile Edition, which offers a detailed insight into current consumer opinion, business implications and market trends.  Conducted by Harris Interactive among smartphone users in the US and UK between June 12 and June 19 2013, the survey is part of an established research series and, now in its third year, a long-term commitment to market education by TRUSTe.

UK Findings
UK Findings
US Findings
US Findings

The findings provide a valuable barometer on current consumer perceptions and mobile privacy trends by examining issues such as data collection, geo-location tracking, mobile advertising and privacy management responsibility.

And, although the research findings in the US and UK were similar in many instances, they also reveal a number of significant differences of opinion.

Mobile Privacy Concern

Privacy is, and remains, a concern among smartphone users on both sides of the Atlantic.

Despite the considerable investment in product and brand development made by mobile phone companies and app developers, smartphone users are more concerned about their privacy than the brand, camera, weight or screen size.  For 22% of US and 20% of UK users privacy is their greatest concern when using mobile apps, second only to battery life, with 78% in the US and 76% in Great Britain refusing to download an app they don’t trust.

Smartphone users in the US and the UK are equally concerned about privacy issues when banking online – in the US 63% worry frequently or always and in the UK the figure is 54%.

Reluctance to Share Personal Information

The study reveals 43% of smartphone users in the US and 47% in the UK are not prepared to share any information about themselves with a company in exchange for a free or lower cost mobile app.

Unlike in the US, where 38% (up from 31% in 2012) are willing to share at least some information, in the UK the trend is reversed with the figure at 35% (down from 40% in 2012). The number of US users prepared to share their age (44%), full name (31%), date of birth (19%) and web-surfing behavior (12%) have all increased.  But the figures remain static, from last year, for those in the UK willing to reveal their age (38%), full name (34%) and date of birth (19%) and they express a decreasing willingness to share web-surfing behavior (9%).

Interestingly, consumers in both countries are more protective of their contacts and photos than their home address, phone number or current location.

Low Awareness of Mobile Tracking

When it comes to tracking, 31% of US smartphone users are not aware that tracking takes place on a mobile device with the figure rising dramatically across the pond with 46% unaware in the UK. Those in both countries do not like the idea of being tracked (69% in the US and 70% in the UK) which is considerably higher than on desktop where 52% in the US and 47% in the UK express concerns about online behavioral advertising.

Smartphone users across both countries are actively involved in managing their mobile privacy concerns with 76% in the US and 69% in the UK stating they are ultimately responsible.  In addition, 40% of US and 37% of UK smartphone users check for an app privacy policy which is read by 35% of US users, but only 27% of those in the UK.  In addition, more smartphone users in the US (29%) check to see if an app has a trust mark or seal than in the UK (17%).

With mobile privacy concerns running higher than ever, the business implications simply can’t be ignored. If a user won’t download an app or share location data mobile commerce, and technology innovation, feels the impact.  It’s clear companies must address mobile privacy concerns by giving users what they want – more transparency and control over their privacy choices.

The US and UK Mobile Edition surveys will be followed up with a special report on Advertising Privacy later in 2013 and the full research findings will be shared at a series of TRUSTe ‘Powering Trust’ roadshows in the US and Europe beginning this month.

Full details of TRUSTe’s US findings can be found here www.truste.com/us-mobile-privacy-report-2013 and UK findings here www.truste.com/uk-mobile-privacy-report-2013.