App privacy still falling short - Mobile World Live

App privacy still falling short

11 SEP 2014

Many mobile apps are failing to explain how they collect, use and disclose personal information, according to a survey conducted by the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN).

The survey of 1,211 titles by 26 privacy regulators around the world found that 85 per cent fail to adequately explain what is being done with personal data.

Other findings included close to a third of apps requesting an excessive number of permissions to access additional personal information.

Around 59 per cent left users struggling to find basic privacy information, while 43 per cent did not tailor their privacy information to a small screen, with content either too small to view or with information hidden in long privacy policies that require scrolling or clicking through multiple pages.

GPEN members plan to contact the developers of apps that need improvement around privacy.

Despite some concerning findings, the research found examples of good practice, with some offerings providing a basic explanation of how personal information is used, providing links to more detailed information.

Some apps even included notifications that informed users of potential collection or use of personal data just before it took place, giving them a better understanding of how and when their information is being used.

As part of the GPEN effort — which was established in 2010 with the aim of promoting cross-border cooperation among privacy regulators — the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) analysed 50 of the top titles released by developers based in the country.

“Apps are becoming central to our lives, so it is important we understand how they work and what they are doing with our information. Today’s results show that many app developers are still failing to provide this information in a way that is clear and understandable to the average consumer,” commented Simon Rice, group manager for technology at the ICO.

ICO research last year found that privacy concerns caused 49 per cent of app users to decide not to download an product, while 62 per cent of people who have downloaded an app expressed concern about the way personal information is used.

The ICO has previously said that developers should follow a “privacy by design” approach when building their products in order to address consumer concerns and comply with data protection laws.

Reflecting rising concern around data used by health apps, Apple recently changed its privacy rules to ensure personal data collected via Apple’s HealthKit platform is not used to target users with adverts for products such as weight loss remedies.

Author

Tim Ferguson

Tim joined Mobile World Live in August 2011 and works across all channels, with a particular focus on apps. He came to the GSMA with five years of tech journalism experience, having started his career as a reporter... More

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