Report: mobile Internet privacy major concern among consumers

Last week, the GSMA, an association that supports the deployment of the GSM mobile telephone system, announced the results of a study of more than 4,000 mobile phone users in Singapore, Spain and the UK, which sheds light on privacy issues, particularly relating to the use of the mobile Internet and mobile applications.

Last week, the GSMA, an association that supports the deployment of the GSM mobile telephone system, announced the results of a study of more than 4,000 mobile phone users in Singapore, Spain and the UK, which sheds light on privacy issues, particularly relating to the use of the mobile Internet and mobile applications.

“The research shows that to realize the full potential of mobile Internet services, it is imperative that ways are found to strengthen consumer confidence and trust by giving users meaningful transparency, choice and control over how their personal information is used,” says Tom Phillips, chief regulatory officer, GSMA.

 The research is the first in a series of studies and was commissioned in three markets to understand to what degree privacy interests were of concern to mobile users, as well as how they influence attitudes towards, and usage of, mobile Internet services and applications. While the research demonstrates privacy concerns can discourage consumer engagement with mobile Internet services, mobile applications and advertising, it also reveals that users value the services and the opportunities they bring.  

The research highlighted that half of users were concerned about sharing their personal information while using the mobile Internet or mobile applications. Around 81% of mobile users surveyed felt that safeguarding their personal information was very important and 76% said they were very selective about whom they gave their information to.  

According to the report, key areas of user concern, which focused on trust and confidence, were highlighted as behavioral advertising, location-based services (LBS), mobile applications and third-party sharing. Other study findings from the report include:

  • 89% of users think that it is important to know when personal information is being shared by an application and to be able to turn this off or on;
  • 89% think it’s important to have the option of giving permission for personal information to be used by third parties, while 78% are concerned with third parties having access to the location of their mobile without permission;
  • 74% want to be told if their personal information is collected to target them with offers or promotions;
  • 92 % of respondents have concerns when applications collect personal information without their consent; and
  • 79% would like to know when and what type of personal information is being collected.

Practical services such as maps and weather are the most frequently used location-based services and are highly valued by over 70% of respondents, according to the report. Of those surveyed, 79% think it is important to have the choice whether to receive location-based advertising with 86% believing it important to be able to turn LBS promotions or advertising on or off.

Over 60% of respondents were familiar with behavioral advertising, with 35% finding it valuable, but 84% thought it important to be able to have the choice whether to receive behavioral advertising that is based on browsing history and 81% remained concerned about receiving behavioral advertising without their consent.

“The research shows that providing users with contextually aware prompts and choices, using icons and establishing trust schemes can help address key user privacy concerns and strengthen user confidence,” says Phillips.

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