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Smartphone Users Care More About Privacy than Screen Size or Brand

In its 2013 Consumer Data Privacy Study: Mobile Edition, TRUSTe found that privacy is the primary concern for 20% of UK smartphone users (and 22% of US users) when using mobile apps. In fact, privacy is second only to battery life (45% in the UK, 46% in the US). Other phone attributes, like brand (13%/9% (UK/US) screen size (11%/9%), camera (3%) and weight (2%) fall to the back of the pack.

Privacy surges to the fore when it comes to specific activities: unsurprisingly, 54%/63% of smartphone users are frequently or always concerned about privacy when banking online, followed by shopping online (50%/60%).

More than three-quarters of UK smartphone users won’t download an app they don’t trust (up from 68% in 2012), dovetailing with the 78% of US smartphone users surveyed (down from 85% in 2012).

About 37%/40% of smartphone users surveyed said they check to make sure whether a mobile app has a privacy policy, and nearly 17% of UK respondents check to see if the app has a privacy trust mark or seal, compared with three in 10 in the US. Additionally, 32%/39% research apps online and 27%/26% check with friends before sharing personal information.

While consumers are more aware about mobile behavioral advertising than a year ago, awareness is still relatively low, and, regardless of awareness, the majority of those surveyed don’t like the concept of tracking (70% in the UK and 69% in the US felt negative about it). In the UK, nearly half (46%) of smartphone users are still unaware that it even happens. That’s compared with 24% being unaware on the desktop. In the US, it’s 31% of smartphone users are not aware that tracking takes place on mobile (compared with 20% being unaware on the desktop).

“With mobile privacy concerns running higher than ever, the business implications simply can’t be ignored,” said Chris Babel, CEO for TRUSTe, in a statement. “If a user won’t download an app or share location data, mobile commerce – and technology innovation – takes a hit. To secure their future growth, companies must address mobile privacy concerns now – giving users what they’re asking for with more transparency and control over their privacy choices.”

UK mobile users are also less willing to share personal data than a year ago. Almost half (47%) of smartphone users surveyed will not share any personal information in exchange for free or lower cost mobile apps. The study found that smartphone users are less willing to share personal data in general compared with TRUSTe's 2012 research: While offering apps for free or at a reduced cost will entice 35% of smartphone users to share some information, this is down from 40% in 2012. Specifically, the vast majority of users will not share contact information (98%), precise location data (92%) or web surfing behavior (91%).

In the US it’s the opposite trend: smartphone users are showing increased willingness to share personal data in general compared with TRUSTe's 2012 research. Only 43% of smartphone users surveyed are averse to sharing personal information in exchange for free or lower cost mobile apps – although sharing contact information (99%) precise location data (89%) and web surfing behavior (88%) are the main things consumers are concerned about.

But there’s a caveat to all of this: despite the concern over what apps may be doing, mobile users still hold themselves most responsible for protecting privacy. A full 69% of those surveyed in the UK responded that they are ultimately responsible for protecting their own privacy, while 76% of them felt that way in the US.

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