Privacy in Apps – How will the Mobile World OvercomePrivacy Challenges?
About The Author:For over 15 years, Ms. Marjorie DeHeyDaleo has held high-level positions in marketing, business development and corporate strategy for a number of small and large firms, including the Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF), MediaMojos, the Irish government, LexisNexis and MGM Studios. Ms. DeHey was recently named one of “The 25 Women to Watch in 2012” by Mobile Marketer Magazine (http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/lib/13484.pdf). She currently serves as the General Manager for the Mobile Entertainment Forum and as an executive consultant for MediaMojos, a mobile and entertainment consulting firm. She has spoken nationally and internationally on branding, strategic acquisitions and emerging new media technologies.
I have spent many years as a senior executive in the mobile space and am often asked to draw parallels between the mobile world and the online world because “basically mobile is going to follow the online rules/regulations.” There are, of course, numerous parallels but also distinct differences that industry organizations, government agencies and big businesses are trying to tackle. First is the fact thatmobile is always on…always there….in your hands. Consumers feel a far greater sense of privacy with their phones than their computers – ourmobile devices carry most of the important information about our lives. Most of us would let their friend/significant other share a computer but are not willing to let anyone borrow our phone. Secondly, phones are the ultimate multi-tasking devices and have created shortened attention spans .The development of apps started a process that allows users to have immediate (and expert) answers to most questions, store very personal details and have allowed for content onsumption during every second of the day. This “need for speed” has made consumers more likely to overlook privacy or security concerns in the quest for “instant gratification”. Lastly, mobile apps and the rise of m-Commerce have created a “one-click” mentality where people buy quickly and feel that if there is a problem, their mobile network will protect them by crediting their account or their credit card company will protect them by reimbursing them for any issues.
The real question is: how safe is that app in your hand?
A range of global industry organizations, such as MEF have recently launched global Privacy initiatives to address some of these issues. They are striving to assist the industry to create their own best practices standards and develop policies that protect consumers and support the growth of themobile industry as a whole. Consumers need to haveinformed consent, transparent solutions and actually know where their information will be utilized – and all of these things need to take place at the speed of consumer consumption of apps (which is over 350 apps per second).MEF’s recentinitiative, which promotes global industry self-regulation, is led by industry leaders such as Vodafone, InMobi, mBlox, Impact Mobile and SNR Denton (see http://www.mefmobile.org).
Clever businesses have recognized that consumers want their apps quickly and they have created interesting products to help solve these issues. Lookout, for example, has developed Privacy tools such as: Privacy Scans (which scan every app a consumer downloads to determine who can access your information) and Privacy Advisor (a consolidated list of apps that can access a consumer’s private information, such as: Contacts, Location, Text messages and Identity info. These consumer- friendly and real-time tools are examples of how technology can be used effectively to help ensure consumer trust in the mobile space.
Lookout’s Privacy Advisor Dashboard
The greatconcern is who will have to deal with the fall-out when a consumer’s privacy is breached. Consumers will look to operators as a “big brother” who will protect them if something happens on their device and will also look to their financial institutions to protect them if their credit card/bank account information is misused. These are numerous examples of situations where a consumer’s feel their private information has been misused. A recent example was a lawsuit filed against Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Apple, Foursquare and 13 other prominent social media firms accusing them of supplying mobile applications that invade users' privacy.The lawsuit was sparked by the controversial New York Times article: “Mobile Apps Take Data Without Permission”, which indicated that individual’s address books in are “free for app developers to take at will, often without the phone owner’s knowledge”. (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com). The more complex issues arise in situations where a consumer’s information is us by a third party and when that information is used in a way that may benefit a consumer or that a consumer wants shared (such as shopping apps or friend finding apps). For example, a consumer uses an app that allows them to buy a product – the current thinking is “wouldn’t that consumer want advertisements for complementary products or a discount on their next purchase?” For advertisers and mobile marketers, these are the big issues that need to be addressed as the playing ground must be fair for both consumers and businesses in these spaces.
As these issues get tackled on numerous fronts, app creators should follow these three rules:
• Make it transparent – if you are planning to use a consumer’s information for advertising or future marketing purposes, let people know – you will be surprised how many of us will be fine with it. Consumers watch television commercials every day as a swap for free content.
• Don’t get overwhelmed by the process and opt for status quo. There are a lot of rules, pending legislation, case law and industry standards to look at and understand. At the end of the day, the goal is to inform and protect yourcustomers.
So, review your existing privacy policies, ensure that your company is working towards creating the best policies it can for your end users and reach out to industry experts who are working to make implementation “privacy in apps” policies that are fair to all and easier for business owners.