A recent survey by the Pew Research Center investigated how mobile device users manage their privacy. The survey included both cell phone users and smart phone users. Key findings:
"54% of app users have decided to not install a cell phone app when they discovered how much personal information they would need to share in order to use it; 30% of app users have uninstalled an app that was already on their cell phone because they learned it was collecting personal information that they didn’t wish to share. Taken together, 57% of all app users have either uninstalled an app over concerns about having to share their personal information, or declined to install an app in the first place for similar reasons."
It is good to read that consumers are not blindly downloading and using mobile device apps, since prior studies have documented sporadic and inconsistent access to privacy policies for mobile apps. After pressure from the California Attorney General, several companies (e.g., Amazon.com, Apple, Google, hewlett-packard, Microsoft, and Research In Motion) that operate mobile app stores agreed to improve app privacy policies disclosing the personal data collected, stored, and shared. Earlier this month, researchers at M.I.T. documented privacy abuses by mobile apps that tracked consumers without notice nor consent. And, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission published guidelines for businesses that develop and market mobile device apps.
The Pew survey found that almost one-third, 31% of all smart phone users surveyed, have lost their device or had it stolen. Among users 18 to 24 years of age, about 45% had either lost their device or had it stolen. The survey authors concluded:
"Smartphone owners are generally more active in managing their mobile data, but also experience greater exposure to privacy intrusions"
The table below highlights this conclusion:
|Activity||Smart Phone Users||Cell Phone Users|
|Back up phone contents||59%||21%|
|Cleared browsing or search history||50%||14%|
|Turned off location tracking||30%||7%|
|Experienced lost or stolen device||33%||29%|
|Somebody accessed device in a way that felt like a privacy intrustion||15%||8%|
Pew conducted the nationwide survey, in both English and Spanish, of 2,254 adults (age 18 and older) during March 15 to April 3, 2012. Download the Pew report: "Privacy and Data management on Mobile Devices."