Over half of mobile application users now say that they have either uninstalled an app because it was collecting too much personal information or chose not to install an app in the first place for the same reason, according to a Pew Survey. Even as app users’ personal information, such as their location, becomes more and more valuable to marketers, those same users are showing that they do not like sharing so much about themselves.
Coming on the heels of this survey are recommendations from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for app developers aimed at increasing awareness of consumers’ privacy concerns. While these are simply recommendations for the time being, developers would do well to note that the money they make from marketing that utilizes personal information may not be enough to account for the number of users who refuse to use an app because of privacy concerns.
The survey findings are especially intriguing in light of a common perception that younger smartphone users who grew up in the age of the Internet are willing to share personal information with little thought about the consequences. While this may be true for some users (given that 46% did not alter their app-downloading behavior due to privacy concerns), the results point to a growing awareness of the value of personal data and the importance of safeguarding it.
Knowing what information apps are requesting is very important to many smartphone users because of the wide range of permissions granted to developers when users implicitly accept end-user licensing agreements. These agreements make legal recourse for app users quite difficult, even when apps share important information such as email addresses, phone numbers, and full names. However, now that the FTC is taking an interest in smartphone app privacy concerns, it is not out of the question that the Commission may eventually issue actual regulations instead of recommendations. If the FTC does issue regulations, app developers who are not careful about how they treat users’ privacy concerns could find themselves in legal hot water.