A new survey released Wednesday found that mobile phone users are increasingly concerned about the privacy of mobile phone applications, with more than half opting against downloading an app that asked for too much personal information.
The survey from Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project polled mobile phone users about their privacy concerns. The group found that 88 percent of Americans now report having a cell phone and 43 percent of them have downloaded an app to their phones. Of these app users, 54 percent said they have opted against installing an app after finding that it would require them to reveal more personal data than they wanted. In addition, a third of app users have uninstalled an app already on their phone because of concerns that it was collecting more personal information than they wanted to share.
"The way a mobile application handles personal data is a feature that many cell phone owners now take into consideration when choosing the apps they will use," Mary Madden, a Pew research associate and a co-author of the report, said in a statement.
The issue has grown in importance with the rapid popularity of apps covering a wide range of topics from games to traffic congestion. But the growing app industry also has had to confront some high-profile flaps over apps that secretly download information from a user's phone without their permission. The Application Developers Alliance, a Washington-based group representing apps developers, acknowledged that the industry has work to do address to user concerns about the privacy of some apps.
"Apps are enjoyed by and trusted by millions of people. But as more consumers learn the importance of data privacy and security, app developers must work even harder to successfully earn and maintain that critical trust," Jon Potter, president of the Applications Developers Alliance, said in a statement.
Despite such concerns, Pew found that smartphone users tend to be more aware of privacy issues related to the use of their phones and have taken steps to address their concerns. The survey found half of smartphone users said they have cleared the browsing or search history of their phones, compared with 14 percent of regular cell phone users. And 30 percent have turned off tracking features on their phones compared with just 7 percent of regular cell phone users.
The survey found 31 percent of all cell phone users say they have lost or had their phones stolen. Of this group, 12 percent said they worry someone may have accessed information on their phone. Younger users, those 18-24 years of age, are most likely to have lost or had their phones stolen.
The survey, which had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, was conducted March 15-April 3 of 2,254 adults on both landlines and cell phones and included 1,954 cell phone users.