Privacy Concerns Cause Mobile Phone Users to Uninstall, Avoid Apps

September 7, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Data-driven | Mobile Phone | Personalization | Privacy & Security | Youth & Gen X

pew-mobile-owners-app-privacy-concerns-sept2012.pngSome 43% of all mobile phone users use applications, but 54% of those app users have decided not to install an app due to concerns about sharing or collecting of personal information, and 30% have uninstalled an app for the same reason, according to [pdf] a September 2012 report from Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

App use appears to decline with age while app caution rises, reveals data from “Privacy and Data Management on Mobile Devices.” 65% of younger mobile phone users (aged 18 to 29) use apps, compared to 53% aged 30 to 49, and 20% aged 50 and older. While 49% of the youngest age bracket have decided not to install an app for privacy concerns, the percentages rise to 55% in the 30-49 age group and 57% in the 50+ age group.

App caution rises alongside education level also. 45% of app users with a high-school education or less have decided not to install an app due to privacy concerns, compared to 57% of those with some college education and 60% of college graduates.

1 in 5 Disarm Location Tracking

Location tracking may be key to targeted marketing, but mobile phone users treat location as a privacy concern. 19% of mobile phone owners have turned off the location tracking feature because they were concerned that other individuals or companies could access that information. That figure rises among smartphone owners, 30% of whom have turned off location tracking. In terms of age, the number peaks in the 25-34 age group, where 32% of mobile phone owners report having turned off location tracking, versus just 4% of owners aged 65 and older. It’s unclear from the study whether this discrepancy relates to levels of understanding regarding location tracking.

Mobile Owners Take Multiple Steps To Protect Data

Further details from Pew’s report indicate that beyond disarming location tracking, mobile phone owners also take other steps to secure their privacy. These include backing up the photos, contacts, and other files on their phone so they have a copy in case their phone is ever broken or lost (41%) and clearing the browsing history or search history on their phones (32%).

Another common security measure, as revealed in a July 2012 UC Berkeley study, is simply holding a mobile phone “close to the vest.” 9 in 10 respondents reported they would definitely not allow a stranger to borrow their mobile phones, and only half said definitely would allow a spouse or other close family member to borrow their phones.

Those mobile phone users reported storing large amounts of data on their phones that they consider private, including contact information (82% of users), text messages (78%), photos and videos (75%), and voicemail messages (74%). They appeared especially cautious about passwords, and just 27% store passwords for websites and apps.

Just under one third of respondents to the Pew survey have experienced a lost or stolen phone, while 12% have had another person access the contents of their phones in a way that made them feel their privacy was invaded.

The youngest mobile users (aged 18-24) over-index in each of these situations: 45% report that their phones were lost or stolen, and 24% report that someone has accessed their phone in a way that compromised their privacy.

About The Data: The Pew results are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from March 15 to April 3, 2012, among a sample of 2,254 US adults, age 18 and older. Telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (1,351) and cell phone (903, including 410 without a landline phone).

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