MEF study analyzes privacy policies in most popular iOS, Android apps

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By Brandy Shaul Comment

privacy-policy-650-1Image via MEF

Mobile commerce company MEF has released new research into how developers inform app users about the use of their personal data. The study analyzed the top 100 free mobile apps on both iOS and Google Play as of Q2 2013, and found that there are plenty of areas for improvement for developers to present privacy information in a “consumer-friendly” way.

The research comes after a June 2012 study from the Future of Privacy program, which found only 28 percent of paid apps and 48 percent of free apps available in the Apple App Store contained a privacy policy or a link to a privacy policy on the app’s promotional page.

According to MEF, only one in two apps (55 percent) offered access to a privacy policy before the app was downloaded. Of the top 100 apps, only 32 percent offered access to that privacy policy within the app itself, and 69 percent of those were written in long-form, containing more than 750 words each.

MEF found the average policy length to be over 3,000 words, taking 12 minutes to read. This is a big issue, says MEF, as users rarely stay within the same app for more than a few minutes at a time and therefore shouldn’t be expected to spend 12 minutes reading a legal document just to find out how their information is being (or not being) used.

privacy-policy-650-2Image via MEF

These stats follow a February 2013 FTC report, recommending new privacy guidelines for developers in response to users that are becoming increasingly concerned about the way their information is used. Rather than simply asking for permission before gathering a user’s data, the FTC recommends providing privacy data disclosures to allow them to make more informed decisions.

Aside from privacy policies, some developers are looking for ways to make more secure applications for users. For instance, Pirate Bay’s Peter Sunde is creating an NSA-proof messaging app for users to communicate with end-to-end encryption of messages that “only you and your friends can read.”

MEF’s full data infographic can be viewed below.

appPrivacy_infograph-650Image via MEF