With the emergence of digital media come privacy concerns that didn’t exist in previous years. Many smart phone apps are designed to track user information–including GPS location–without the user’s explicit consent or knowledge that this is happening. In my class this week, I read about a study that Groupon, a popular app that offers local deals to consumers, was found to track a user’s location more than 5,000 times over a 14-day span! Groupon’s senior management simply responded that this was necessary to offer the best deals to consumers. Read more about this case here. It is very important for users to read the fine print when signing up for any app. Some apps do have clear privacy policies found within the terms of service that explain exactly what information the app will be accessing. Other apps are not so straightforward with this. Therefore, it is important to only purchase apps from trusted sources and to be aware that in some cases, your information can be sold to third party data companies without your knowledge or permission.
In addition to location, apps can track consumers’ preferences based on purchase history, web browsing, data cache on a smart phone, contact lists, friends’ lists on social media, and even information shared on the smart phone itself through messaging. Where do consumers stand on having their information shared with (or without) their explicit consent? 38% of respondents to a 2013 TRUSTe Privacy Index Study reported that they are OK with having their information shared in exchange for a free or lower cost app, whereas 43% said absolutely not! 19% were torn in the middle and answered “maybe” this is OK.
It is also important to consider what content is on your mobile device that could be compromised in the case that your device is lost or stolen. In the age of bringing our own mobile devices to work, there are potential privacy concerns that confidential corporate data could be breached as well as your personal information if your phone is lost or hacked.
This video provides some great tips for securing your phone or mobile device.
Steps You Should Take:
- Set a passcode on the lock screen or a fingerprint pattern that must be inputted to access the device.
- Make it easy to find or lock down a lost or stolen phone.
- Increase defenses against hackers by only downloading apps from trusted sellers.
- Use public WiFi hotspots cautiously. Do not send personal information on these networks, such as making a credit card purchase.
- Use multi-step authentication on apps that offer it.
Question for You: As the survey asked, are you willing to share at least some data in exchange for a free or low-cost app or deal? Why or why not? Please respond in the comments below or on Twitter.