Angry Birds know where you live

75% of the public may be giving away their physical location when downloading smartphone applications, according to AdaptiveMobile.

69% of smartphone users are adamant that such privacy breaches are totally unacceptable, yet three quarters fail to read the terms and conditions, which include access to data such as their physical location.

“Consumers are outraged that their data may not be secure but are unwilling to protect themselves,” says AdaptiveMobile VP of Handset Security, Ciaran Bradley. “It’s like getting angry at the prospect of being burgled, but announcing publicly when their house is unoccupied. We are downloading more apps than ever before, but people are unaware that their location and other information can be harvested by applications. This is comparable to half of the population being unaware that they need to lock their front door. Whilst mobile operators do have a role to play to protect users, both need to step up and take responsibility.”

According to the AdaptiveMobile survey, one in four consumers (25%) are still blasé about their personal data, admitting that they would be willing to exchange their details for a free app download. However, 75% are more cautious, saying that they would pay more for apps if they could be assured of good privacy.

In-house research from AdaptiveMobile has shown that common applications including Angry Birds, Jaws and Paper Toss have access to information including country, city, location co-ordinates and owner’s name, and may contact up to 17 different domains to share this kind of information with external bodies including advertisers.

“Consumers and the wider mobile industry need to become savvier about the information which is shared by apps,” said Mike Hawkes, Chairman of The Mobile Data Association. “It is becoming commonplace that personal information is shared with advertisers and developers, and the industry needs to adapt accordingly. This includes both better understanding and higher visibility of terms and conditions, as well as the ability to take appropriate actions if guidelines are overstepped.”

“iPhone users are the most careless, with 65% completely unaware that free applications may compromise their privacy,” continued Bradley. “Windows Phone users are currently the most responsible, with almost a third (29%) promising to stop downloading free applications if they had any doubt that their personal information was not safe. This caution is characteristic of Windows Phone users, with 95% of them “quite’ or “very’ concerned about privacy infringements.”

It is clear that users and operators need to work together to be protected, and many have made a start. At the time of survey, although 70% did not know how to configure their smartphone security, 60% have now vowed to read the terms and conditions of applications in future and 43% have also promised to customize security measures on their phones, or seek further guidance from operators about it.

“If we are to slow the rise in cybercrime, consumers need to become more aware of the need for phone security, and operators should provide protection against the unauthorized or inadvertent leakage of personal data to guard and build trust with their users,” concluded Bradley. “Not only will this frustrate hackers and other cyber criminals, but also ensure that consumers can have a safe mobile experience”

Don't miss