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Half of top mobile apps don’t offer privacy policies prior to download

Online security

More than a quarter of the top 100 free mobile apps don’t have a privacy policy. That’s according to MEF, the global community for mobile content and commerce.

With online privacy emerging as a focal issue in the last few months, MEF has published analysis into how the top 100 free mobile apps inform consumers about their use of personal data. More than a quarter (28%) of the top 100 apps available from the App Store and Google Play still don’t have a privacy policy. As well as other areas for improvement, mobile apps can present privacy information in a non-consumer-friendly way.

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According to the organisation, the report follows its Global Privacy Report from earlier in 2013, which showed that 70% of consumers say it’s important to know exactly what personal information is being collected and shared. MEF’s latest analysis examined when and how a privacy policy was made available; the language used and its length.

  • Only one in two apps (55%) offer a privacy policy prior to download in the app store.

This means that almost half the top 100 free apps do not give consumers a chance to make an informed decision prior to downloading.

  • Only a third (32%) offer access to the policy within the app
  • 69% of privacy policies are written in long form (more than 750 words)

“The average policy length was found to be 3 068 words, taking 12 minutes to read (an average ability adult reader can read 250 words per minute). The longest privacy policy was 8 124 words which would take 32 minutes to read. Only eight percent were written in less than 750 words,” says MEF.

This year, the organisation is including a consumer trust award category at this year’s Meffys, the global awards for mobile content and commerce which will this year take place in San Francisco as part of MEF’s Global Forum 2013. The organisation says the “award recognises companies who are paving the way for managing mobile privacy and security in line with regulation and industry developments of best practice”.

With users interacting with an app for an average of just two minutes per session it is unrealistic to expect consumers to engage with a privacy policy for so long.

“Consumers must able to make an informed decision about whether or not to download an app. Once it’s on their device, they should be able to access the policy easily, from within the app,” says Simon Bates, Senior Advisor on Policy and Initiatives. “MEF’s global Privacy in Apps Initiative is supported by members from across the value chain to increase consumer trust in apps. It is essential developers are transparent. Privacy policies should be accessible, brief and easy to understand.”

See the infographic below for app privacy data:

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