Mobile Apps Privacy Framework For Consumer Transparency and Control

Mobile technology is an integral part of our daily life. Mobile devices help consumers in many ways. They help us connect with loved ones, provide directions, catch-up with news, send emails, text friends and family, monitor our heart rate, stream movies, interact on social media sites, and complete transactions in a matter of seconds. Most of the times, applications and services require end-user related data to understand the context and provide appropriate content. It is well understood that data is critical in providing a great user-experience. However, consumers don’t have a clear understanding of how their personal data is being collected, stored, and used.

The collection of consumers’ personal information is not new. The difference now is that there are tools available that help connect various dots to generate the precise information about the user and build a detailed user profile without consumer knowing about it. Because of the location based technologies and various apps on your phone, companies now have a log of all of your day activities. Over time, the data collected can generate significant details about your habits, likes and dislikes, and pretty much build your identity without you ever knowing about it.

There have been many concerns raised by consumers about privacy of their data collected through mobile devices. For example, a nationwide survey indicated that 57% of all the apps users have either uninstalled an app over concerns about having to share their personal information, or declined to install an app in the first place for similar reasons. A mobile app developer had to settle with the FTC because they were collecting kid’s information without their parent’s consent. Delta airlines had to settle with California State when they were cited for mobile apps privacy violation in a lawsuit. A popular social networking application Path was fined $800K by the FTC for improperly sending consumer’s contact information to their cloud. FTC has repeatedly warned leading mobile app developers and platform providers to be more transparent about consumer data and privacy and even issued a recommendation report in 2013.

Data that provides context to the application developer is definitely needed to provide a robust user experience. Google Maps won’t operate well without location information, Whatsapp will not work well without the address book, Facebook requires the interaction history to provide a better newsfeed, Amazon looks at past transactions to recommend new ones, and so on and so forth. However, there is a lack of a simple and consistent way to convey the intent and the value of the data being collected, stored, and used by various application providers.

These concerns clearly indicate that in order to build consumer trust, we must provide control to consumers over their personal information and be extremely transparent about what, when, and where companies are collecting personal information.  There must be a balance. While protecting consumer privacy, there shouldn’t be a negative impact on innovation.

Source: Mobile Future Forward.

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