Mobile Users Rank Privacy as an Important Concern

Today the GSMA announced the results of a study of more than 4,000 mobile phone users in Singapore, Spain and the UK, which sheds light on privacy issues, particularly relating to the use of the mobile Internet and mobile applications. The research follows the January publication of the GSMA’s Mobile Privacy Principles, which were delivered through the close collaboration of leading mobile operators, with input from other players in the wider mobile ecosystem, and described the way in which mobile consumers’ privacy should be respected and protected.

“The research shows that to realise the full potential of mobile Internet services, it is imperative that ways are found to strengthen consumer confidence and trust by giving users meaningful transparency, choice and control over how their personal information is used,” said Tom Phillips, chief regulatory officer, GSMA. “The GSMA is committed to working with stakeholders from across the whole mobile ecosystem to help establish effective and consistent privacy experiences for mobile users, and to ensure that privacy is a key consideration of all mobile services.”  

The research is the first in a series of studies and was commissioned in three sophisticated markets to understand to what degree privacy interests were of concern to mobile users, as well as how they influence attitudes towards, and usage of, mobile Internet services and applications. While the research demonstrates privacy concerns can discourage consumer engagement with mobile Internet services, mobile applications and advertising, it also reveals that users greatly value the services and the opportunities they bring.  

Key Research Findings

The research highlighted that half of users were concerned about sharing their personal information while using the mobile Internet or mobile applications. Around 81 per cent of mobile users surveyed felt that safeguarding their personal information was very important and 76 per cent said they were very selective about whom they gave their information to.  Key areas of user concern, which focused on trust and confidence, were highlighted as behavioural advertising, location-based services (LBS), mobile applications and third-party sharing. Other study findings include:

  • 89 per cent of users think that it is important to know when personal information is being shared by an application and to be able to turn this off or on;
  • 89 per cent think it important to have the option of giving permission for personal information to be used by third parties and 78 per cent are concerned with third parties having access to the location of their mobile without permission;
  • 74 per cent want to be told if their personal information is collected to target them with offers or promotions; and
  • 92 per cent of respondents have concerns when applications collect personal information without their consent and 79 per cent would like to know when and what type of personal information is being collected.

Practical services such as maps and weather are the most frequently used location-based services and are highly valued by over 70 per cent of respondents. 79 per cent think it is important to have the choice whether to receive location-based advertising with 86 per cent believing it important to be able to turn LBS promotions or advertising on or off.

Over 60 per cent of respondents were familiar with behavioural advertising, with 35 per cent finding it valuable, but 84 per cent thought it important to be able to have the choice whether to receive behavioural advertising that is based on browsing history and 81 per cent remained concerned about receiving behavioural advertising without their consent.

“The research shows that providing users with contextually aware prompts and choices, using icons and establishing trust schemes can help address key user privacy concerns and strengthen user confidence,” concluded Phillips. “The GSMA is currently pursuing these ideas of designing for privacy and trust via its Mobile Privacy Initiative launched earlier this year, and welcomes dialogue and participation from the broader mobile community.”

The research covered mobile users in Singapore, Spain and the UK, and was conducted by Futuresight Ltd. on behalf of GSMA between April and June 2011. 4,121 mobile phone users took part in the research, of which 1,005 in Singapore, 1,094 in Spain and 2,022 were in the UK. Further information from the research can be found at: Details of the GSMA Mobile Privacy Initiative and a full copy of the Mobile Privacy Principles can be found at

Mobile Users Rank Privacy as an Important Concern 1

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