According to a new study, mobile apps are doing a poor job of explaining their privacy policies.
In May, members of the Global Privacy Enforcement Network conducted a privacy sweep to analyze the privacy disclosures of mobile apps. Twenty-six privacy regulators from around the world examined 1,211 mobile apps and found that “a high number of apps are accessing large amounts of personal information without adequately explaining how people’s information is being used.”
Specifically, the group found that 83 percent of the apps failed to clearly explain how they were collecting, using, and disclosing personal information. More than half of the apps made it a challenge to locate even basic privacy information, the GPEN said, and almost one out of three apps appeared to request access to more information than was needed.
Forty-three percent of the apps studied did not alter their privacy communications to fit a small, mobile screen, forcing consumers to scroll or click through multiple pages to read the policy.
The study wasn’t all bad news.
Some of the apps provided a basic explanation for how personal information would be used and provided links to more detailed information, GPEN said. And, just as impressive was the use of just-in-time notifications by some apps informing users about the potential collection or use of personal data as it was about to happen.
To read the study results, click here.
Why it matters: While some positive findings were noted, one of the researchers emphasized that there was “clear room for improvement” for apps to explain how consumer information is used. “Today’s results show that many app developers are still failing to provide this information in a way that is clear and understandable to the average consumer,” Simon Rice, group manager for technology at the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office, said in a statement. Mobile apps have faced scrutiny for their failure to provide consumers with information about privacy policies from the Federal Trade Commission as well. The agency recently released findings from a study of mobile shopping apps and reached a conclusion similar to that of GPEN, that many of the apps failed to explain key information prior to download and had vague privacy policies.