GPEN survey finds 85% of mobile apps fail to provide basic privacy information

Posted On 09 Aug 2014
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A survey of over 1,200 mobile apps by 26 privacy regulators from across the world has shown that a high number of apps are accessing large amounts of personal information without adequately explaining how people’s data is being used. The survey by the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) examined the privacy information provided by 1,211 mobile apps. As a member of GPEN, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office examined 50 of the top apps released by UK developers. The key findings of the research are as follows: *85% of the apps surveyed failed to clearly explain how they were collecting, using and disclosing personal information *More than half (59%) of the apps left users struggling to find basic privacy information *Almost one-in-three apps appeared to request an excessive number of permissions to access additional personal information *43% of the apps failed to tailor privacy communications to the small screen, either by providing information in a too small print or by hiding the information in lengthy privacy policies that required scrolling or clicking through multiple pages Examples of good practice The research did find examples of good practice, with some apps providing a basic explanation of how personal information is being used, including links to more detailed information if the individual wants to know more. The regulators were also impressed by the use of just-in-time notifications on certain apps that informed users of the potential collection (or use) of personal data as it was about to happen. These approaches make it easier for people to understand how their information is being used and when. ICO group manager for technology, Simon Rice, commented:” Apps are becoming central to our lives, so it’s important we understand how they work and what they are doing with our information. These results show that many app developers are still failing to provide this information in a way that is clear and understandable to the average consumer.” Rice added:” The ICO and the other GPEN members will be writing to those developers where there is clear room for improvement. We will also be publishing guidance to explain the steps people can take to help protect their information when using mobile apps.” The ICO has published its Privacy in Mobile Apps guidance to help app developers in the UK handle people’s information correctly and meet their requirements under the Data Protection Act 1998. The guidance includes advice on informing people how their information will be used. Research carried out last year to support the guidance’s launch showed that 49% of app users have decided not to download an app due to privacy concerns. View the full results of the GPEN survey here

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.