Thought leadership

MEF, the global community for mobile content and commerce has announced the results of its first Global Privacy Report.  Supported by AVG Technologies, the ten country study of 9,500 respondents reveals consumer attitudes towards the use of their personal information by mobile app providers.

Against a backdrop of recent high profile transgressions, the report was carried out in partnership with mobile specialists On Device Research to uncover global consumer understanding and perceptions of apps that gather and use personal data such as address book information and location.

The explosion of the apps ecosystem is driven by new business models where many apps are free or heavily discounted which of course consumers love, but where developers monetize the information they collect on their users.


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.

“Two main themes emerge from the research: Consumers demand transparency when apps are sharing their data, and importantly the app community needs to do a better job of explaining to consumers why it’s in their interests to do so,” commented Andrew Bud, MEF Global Chair.

“This lack of active transparency and education risks holding back the global mobile content and commerce market. MEF’s 2012 Global Consumer Survey found that 35 per cent of consumers do not purchase more often on their mobile because of a lack of trust. We are committed to working with our members to help the industry address this challenge,” he continued.

“For every one of us with a stake in the future of mobile apps, the MEF Global Privacy Report delivers a stark message that’s also filled with exciting opportunity,” said J.R. Smith, CEO, AVG Technologies. “We need to deliver transparency, security, and control or we fail. And maybe, amid an unprecedented wealth of opportunity for innovation and market creation, fail even to survive.”

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. 


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