70% of mobile users insist on knowing how their personal data is being used

on Friday February 22, 2013 @ 9:42

MEF, the mobile global trade association, have released the results of their first Global Privacy Report. The ten country study of 9,500 respondents, was carried out in partnership with On Device Research, to understand global consumer perceptions of apps that gather and use personal data, such as address book information and location.


The report looks in detail at one of the most critical components of trust: privacy. The use and misuse of personal information is nothing new, but the rapid take-up of smartphones makes personal information even more valuable. It can be used to the benefit of everyone – for example, consumers accessing free content or creating hyper-tailored ads – or it can be exploited, hijacked or stolen.

It’s vital that the mobile industry considers consumers’ interests in the Big Data Revolution and understands consumers’ attitudes to privacy. What they need; their perceptions; what they will and won’t stand for. 

Building trust is the most cost-effective way to grow a sustainable business in a market where thousands of apps jostle for space. This is not about compliance: rather delivering trusted apps as a key product and marketing attribute where only trusted brands will prosper.

The report identified:

  • Only a third of consumers (37%) are comfortable sharing personal data with an app.
  • The majority of consumers consider it important to know when an app is gathering (70%) and sharing (71%) their personal information.
  • Perceptions are that security around data is robust with only 18% stating they are not confident that their personal information is being protected.
  • Females and older consumers (over 35s) are more likely to have concerns over privacy.
  • Growth markets including Brazil, Mexico and South Africa are least comfortable sharing personal information.

The report analyses four key factors of privacy:


  • 70 % of all consumers think it’s important to know what information is being gathered by an app (and 46% think it’s very important)
  • 71 % of all consumers think it’s important to know what information is being shared by an app (and 49% think it’s very important)

Consumers understand the impact of mobile apps on their privacy. They want app providers to be transparent, when it comes to the use of their personal information, so they can make an informed decision about whether to download the app.


  • 33% are not at all comfortable sharing personal information
  • 35% are not at all comfortable sharing location information, suggesting consumers do not consider it especially sensitive.
  • More than half (52%) are not at all comfortable storing their billing information within an app

Consumers are either choosing to ignore apps until such time as they can trust them not to share their personal information, or more worryingly they are engaging with apps not knowing that the app is sharing information without their permission.


  • Only 18% of consumers lack confidence in the security of their personal information
  • This is somewhat higher in growth markets 22% in Saudi Arabia and 27% in South Africa

Security is a broad topic and clearly has a key impact on consumer trust. This survey asked consumers about security in relation to privacy. In this context, consumer perceptions fair well. Most mobile users trust app providers to safely protect their personal information.


  • A third of consumers (33%) think they have complete control over how their personal information is used for advertising purposes.

In reality it is unlikely consumers are able to control the way companies use their personal information, or if they can, it is likely few will understand how to exercise control. This means there is a gap between the power they think they have, and what they are actually able to do. This paves the way for a possible ‘wake-up call’ that will dent trust further.

The report is part of MEF’s on-going activities to champion and advance Consumer Trust in the mobile industry. This was formalised last year with the launch of the Privacy in Mobile Applications Initiative, whose 17 member companies Working Group has a remit to establish industry wide best practice, across the mobile value-chain built on the consumer’s informed consent.

You can download the full report here

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