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2 out of 3 People Never Read Mobile App Privacy Settings

Safety Team
Updated Mar 16, 2021
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Right after downloading a new and exciting mobile app, the last thing most people want to do is read 15 pages of legalese. But the unfortunate reality is that mobile apps are getting more and more invasive while consumers aren’t paying close attention.

In order to get a sense of how many people pay close attention to mobile app privacy settings, The Safety.com team took a survey of 1,154 U.S. residents about their habits when it comes to reviewing these settings. The survey found that a large majority of people report NEVER checking privacy settings on mobile apps.

Full study details below:

  • 65.9% of people report NEVER reading mobile app privacy settings.
  • 21.4% of people report SOMETIMES reading mobile app privacy settings.
  • 12.6% of people report ALWAYS reading mobile app privacy settings.
  • Age played a major factor, with 72.6% of people under 35 saying they never read mobile app privacy settings. 56.1% of people age 55 and up report never reading privacy settings.

The most common sentiment among survey respondents who said they never check privacy settings was that they simply didn’t care enough about what these apps track and record. Even things like location data and personally identifiable information weren’t a major concern for many people.

As one person noted about mobile apps and personal privacy, “It’s impossible to tell who is tracking what for me, I try not to think about it too much.”

This is often in line with the “Who cares if they’re listening, I’m not doing anything wrong/worth recording” sentiment voiced by people less concerned with personal privacy.

But the reality is mobile apps are capable of collecting a considerable amount of personal information. While data collection can be used for plenty of user-friendly reasons (a map app needing to know your location to offer accurate directions as one example), most of the time the data is being collected to build profiles of users and sell this information to advertisers.

According to Mozilla’s 2019 Internet Health Report, the majority of mobile apps collect data on behalf of major advertisers including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and more.

Apple and Facebook are currently in a public fight over the right to track users, with Apple planning an update that would make it notably harder for apps to track users and collect data without their expressed permission.

Because of how few people care or monitor how much they are tracked through third-party mobile apps, it makes sense that a company like Apple, which positions itself as privacy-forward, would make such settings a default. It will be interesting to track along to see how consumer demand plays a part in future privacy improvements both for the maker of the iPhone and other mobile device manufacturers.

Survey methodology: 

  • The survey collected responses from 1,154 U.S. residents.
  • Responses collected Feb. 22, 2021 - March 1, 2021.
  • All responses were collected digitally without any personally identifiable information.

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Safety Team

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