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App use: How much does the privacy policy matter?

Many believe the privacy policy is the most important deciding factor when downloading a new app.

Smartphone charging. — Image by © Tim Sandle.
Smartphone charging. — Image by © Tim Sandle.

Privacy online when using apps has become increasingly important. In the U.S. for example, Congress is postering to ban TikTok. However, the main privacy issues (or not) that politicians should be engaging with are actually about the data we share (with TikTok and/or other third-party apps).

A new study from HostingAdvice revealed that millions of U.S. citizens (41 percent) opt into sharing features such as location, camera, microphone, and Bluetooth when downloading a new app.

The data was drawn from a national online survey of 1,015 U.S. consumers, ages 18 and older, conducted by Propeller Insights on behalf of HostingAdvice.com in February of 2024.

In relation to the privacy issue, 9 percent of those surveyed said they believe the privacy policy is the most important deciding factor when downloading a new app.

Furthermore, around half of those surveyed (51 percent) said they feel comfortable sharing their location with third-party apps, but younger generations said they were less comfortable with this: Baby boomers (61 percent) vs. Gen Z (33 percent).

Additionally, 31 percent are incentivized by personalized offers and targeted ads to share tracking features with third-party apps. Many third-party app users allow access to features that could reveal personal information, for example:

  • 51% share location
  • 32% share Bluetooth
  • 29% share other web/app activity
  • 27% share microphones
  • 21% share camera rolls
  • 16% share contacts

Of those surveyed, 87 percent said they believe app privacy policies are important. Only 13 percent of survey respondents said they do not feel app privacy policies are important. Whether those concerned actually read the policies, however, is uncertain.

Commenting on the issues Tim Keary, Contributing Expert for HostingAdvice tells Digital Journal: “While privacy policies are long, filled with fine print, and tough to read, there are several reasons to check them out, especially when downloading new apps for the first time,” said. “They inform users how their personal data will be collected, used, and protected.”

More specifically, the expert states: “New app users should always check settings to ensure they’re only sharing what they’re comfortable with, including the app’s access to certain features like the camera and microphone, which could be vulnerable to hackers.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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