Consumers want to know what’s going to happen to their data when they accept mobile application permissions, said Lorrie Faith Cranor
, Carnegie Mellon professor, at a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) workshop last week. Professor Cranor sat on the Mobile Privacy Disclosures panel with five other privacy experts during the FTC’s Advertising & Privacy Disclosures workshop
Mobile applications have widespread use – almost 30 billion apps were downloaded in 2011 alone
– but there are no hard-and-fast rules for privacy policies, making them confusing and often inconsistent among applications.
The Carnegie Mellon professor is no stranger to how consumers feel about mobile applications’ privacy policies. Professor Cranor discussed a study
she conducted to determine whether Android smartphone users read or understood smartphone permissions screens. The study found that users did not understand how Android was protecting them, and were unaware of the security risks for mobile applications in general.
Other panelists suggested ways to better educate mobile app users. Ilana Westerman from Create with Context believes transparency is important for consumers to trust mobile applications. When consumers are aware of how the app will affect their data, they feel in control, she said; however, when expectations are violated, trust is eroded.
Ultimately, it comes down to giving consumers the information they need to know when reading and accepting privacy policies. People need to be able to make informed decisions, Professor Cranor said, and they should have meaningful choices.