Who: Kantar Media
When: March 2014
Law stated as at: 7 April 2014
WPP-owned media analysts and advisers Kantar Media published the results of a qualitative research study of the apps environment commissioned by Ofcom.
Kantar investigated attitudes and behaviours of UK app users and its findings were quite startling as regards consumer attitudes to apps and privacy.
The study involved eleven two hour discussion groups with high, “mid” and low app users, eight ninety minute family interviews with a mix of households and four sixty minute “paired teen” interviews with 15-17 year olds.
A key finding was that very few participants spontaneously expressed concerns about apps and privacy.
The apps environment was generally viewed as a safer, more contained space than unlimited browser-based internet access.
This attitude was driven by an assumption that because they came from official stores such as Google Play and Apple App Store, apps downloaded from these sources provided a safe, secure and reliable user experience.
This feeling of security, coupled with a strong desire to use the app and lack of awareness or experience of app privacy issues, led users to commonly download apps without bothering to fully check permissions.
This contrasted with what many claimed to do, which was to refuse certain permissions.
Parents more relaxed about apps
Parental attitudes were also more relaxed when it came to use of apps by their children, with a feeling that the environment was safer because it was more contained. Also, whilst parental controls in apps were regarded positively, many were unaware of or had not used these because of perceived lack of what was felt to be the necessary technical expertise.
As regards in-app purchases and in-app advertising, purchases were not positively viewed, with concerns as to whether they were inadequately flagged up at point of purchase. Advertising in apps was mostly a source of annoyance, with parents concerned they could take children out of the app environment, viewed as relatively safe, onto the web.
Why this matters:
The research findings are cause for concern as there is clearly little basis in reality for the widespread perception that apps provide a generally safer and more privacy-friendly environment.
As the report highlights, however, much of the aura of security and safety that apps have garnered is based on lack of negative experience or knowledge.
Time will tell whether this changes given that Ofcom will clearly be taking more interest in this area now that it has these findings and with the Office of Fair Trading (and now the Competition and Markets Authority) and the European Commission also expressing concerns, particularly about in-app purchases.