An increasing number of mobile device users are becoming more aware of their online privacy and are taking the initiative to remove or avoid apps from their smartphones and cell phones that demand large amounts of personal information to be used.
The trend shows that 54 percent of cell phone users who download apps have chosen not to install an app "when they discovered how much personal information they would need to share in order to use it," according to a Sept. 5 "Privacy and Data Management on Mobile Devices" study conducted by the Pew Research Center s Internet & American Life Project.
"Thirty percent of app users have uninstalled an app that was already on their cell phone because they learned it was collecting personal information that they didn't wish to share," according to the report, which was compiled based on results from a nationwide landline and mobile telephone survey of 2,254 adults between March 15 to April 3. The sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
Cell phones users are also taking other steps to better protect their data and privacy, the study reported. Forty-one percent of cell owners back up the data on their phones, from photos to contacts and other files, in case their phone is ever broken or lost, while 32 percent of cell owners have cleared their browsing or search histories on their phones. About 19 percent of the users turned off the location tracking features on their phones to prevent anyone from tracking them.
"Smartphone owners are especially vigilant when it comes to mobile data management," the study reported. "Six in 10 smartphone owners say they back up the contents of their phone; half have cleared their phone s search or browsing history; and one third say they have turned off their phone s location tracking feature."
At the same time, "smartphone owners are also twice as likely as other cell owners to have experienced someone accessing their phone in a way that made them feel like their privacy had been invaded," the report continued.
Some 88 percent of adults in the United States own cell phones, and 43 percent say they download cell phone apps to their phones, according to Pew.
"It's an important finding because it suggests that the message is getting through that consumers need to be paying more attention, particularly in the apps environment and across the board, as they use mobile devices," said Dempsey. "We and other consumer privacy advocates have been arguing for a long time that we need better laws to regulate user privacy, but also that we need better informed consumers and consumers who are paying more attention."
Dempsey said it is encouraging, particularly since "Congress is making no progress at all on the legislative front" to better protect consumers. "We've been arguing for a long time that the platform developers need to offer users better controls and that the apps developers need to be more explicit about how their apps are working."