Privacy concerns may limit mobile app adoption in Malaysia: GSMA

  • 86% of Malaysian mobile Net users concerned apps might collect personal info without their permission
  • Users more likely to interact with apps and receive targeted promotions if they feel privacy is respected

Privacy concerns may limit mobile app adoption in Malaysia: GSMANEW research by the GSM Association (GSMA), in association with local mobile operators, found that a large majority of Malaysians are concerned that apps might be collecting personal information without their permission, which have caused many to limit their app use.
The study of more than 1,500 Malaysian mobile users shows that increased transparency and choice in how their personal data is collected and shared could boost take-up of mobile apps in Malaysia, the GSMA said in a statement.
The research, which explored how privacy concerns can impact the adoption of mobile apps and services in Malaysia, was presented at a Data Protection and Privacy Conference hosted by the GSMA, Celcom Axiata and DiGi Telecommunications in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 29.
Citing a 2012 study by Strategy Analytics, the GSMA said that the mobile apps market globally is worth US$29 billion and growing at 36% per annum.
“It is clear that mobile users are concerned about their privacy and are more likely to interact with apps and receive targeted promotions if they feel it is respected,” said Tom Phillips, chief government and regulatory affairs officer at the GSMA.
“We urge developers of mobile services and apps to look at the various best practice privacy guidelines available, including those published by the GSMA and the NTIA (the National Telecommunications Informational Administration and its AppTrust project), and start incorporating these into their services.
“Being honest and transparent with customers boosts their confidence and trust when engaging with what you have to offer,” Phillips added.
More safety, more services

The study reveals that better privacy safeguards will alleviate mobile users’ concerns and encourage adoption of mobile services and apps, the GSMA said:

  • 86% of Malaysian mobile Internet users surveyed are concerned that apps might collect personal information without their permission, and over half of those with concerns limit their use of apps but would use them more if they felt sure their personal information was better safeguarded; and
  • 71% of mobile Internet users would consider receiving targeted location-based advertising from a company that asked for their permission first.

The research indicates that mobile users want to understand and easily control what types of personal data the different mobile services can access on their devices:

  • 62% of those who download apps try to find out what information an app wants to use and why before installing it;
  • 69% of Malaysian mobile users want to set their own preferences for the types and timing of ads they receive on their mobile devices;
  • 79% of mobile Internet users agree to privacy policies without reading them, mainly because “they are too long”; and
  • 87% of mobile Internet users think an industry-accredited privacy icon displayed on mobile Internet sites they visit (e.g. to indicate the anonymous collection of personal information) would encourage them to accept targeted ads.

The research also found that mobile users value their privacy but do not want to be burdened by long legalistic privacy notices before they can use an app. They want short, simple and easily recognisable icons to help them understand what they are agreeing to.
For example, apps that wish to share a user’s location with advertisers could display a graphic icon and require them to agree. Such icons are likely to strengthen users’ trust with mobile service providers and apps and encourage them to interact with those services more, benefitting both themselves and business, the GSMA said.
Safeguarding personal information is key

Mobile users hold their mobile operator primarily responsible for safeguarding their personal data but want all companies accessing their personal information to respect their privacy rights, irrespective of the type of smartphone, the service or the app they use.
They also look to regulators and mobile operators for help when their mobile privacy is invaded:

  • More than half (55%) of Malaysian mobile users think their mobile network operator is responsible for safeguarding their personal information even in situations where the operator has no actual control in practice, for example, when they download an app from an independent app store;
  • 56% of mobile users believe a consistent set of rules should apply to any company that has access to their location, irrespective of how they obtain this information; and 
  • 75% of Malaysian mobile users said they would contact their regulator/ data protection authority and/ or their mobile operator, if they suffered a serious invasion of privacy while using an app, regardless of who was responsible.

“Against the backdrop of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) coming into force in Malaysia, policymakers and industry players have a great opportunity to work together to understand how best to address privacy in the context of mobile devices, and to support opportunities for innovation in privacy management,” Phillips said.
The research was independently conducted by Futuresight Ltd and sponsored by the GSMA, in association with Celcom Axiata and with support from DiGi. To see the full survey results from Malaysia,
Related Stories:
Personal data protection law to be enforced by year-end?
Clock ticking for Personal Data Protection Act compliance
PDPA: Businesses have responsibilities and burdens
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