The Majority of Mobile Apps Request Access to Personal Data, Study Finds

by Istvan Fekete on September 12, 2014

The rapid adoption of smartphones is pushing up the popularity of mobile apps, but many of them seek access to large amounts of personal information without detailing how that information is being used, participants of the second annual global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) Privacy Sweep have found.

“Fortunately, there were few examples of apps collecting the sort of information that would appear to exceed their functionality—like a flashlight app seeking permission to obtain your contacts list,” says Daniel Therrien, Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

“But we did find many apps were requesting permission to access potentially sensitive information, like your location or access to your camera functions, without necessarily explaining why. This left many of our sweepers with a real sense of unease.”

The Sweep’s results are based on the assessment of 1,211 apps, 151 of which were assessed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. They looked at the permissions an app was seeking, whether those permissions exceeded what would be expected based on the app’s functionality, and how the app explained to consumers why it wanted their personal information and what it planned to do with it.

As it turns out, both large- and small-scale developers have realized that they can build trust by providing clear, easy-to-read and timely explanations about what information they will collect and how they will use it. Others, however, fail to provide even the most basic privacy information.

To put this into numbers: 28% of the assessed apps provided a clear explanation of their data collection, use, and disclosure policies, while more than a quarter (26%) offered no privacy policy at all.

As the Global Sweep report highlights, 75% of all apps requested one or more permissions, with the most common being location, device ID, and access to other accounts, the camera and contacts.

A major issue with the privacy communications is that 43% of the apps don’t tailor the privacy communications to the small screen, the report says.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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