A few weeks ago I blogged about Stride gum’s new mobile game, Gumulon, and the benefits of mobile advergaming for consumer brands. However, there are additional considerations that companies should make themselves aware of before entering the mobile gaming arena, not least of which is the question of consumer privacy.
The question of data privacy on mobile devices has been a hot topic for a number of years, but gained extra attention earlier this year when Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson introduced the “Application Privacy, Protection and Security” act in Congress. The Act calls for mobile app developers to let users know what an app’s privacy policies are when it comes to information being shared and the length of time the information is kept by a developer. Up until now the laws have not kept up with the technology and there is little-to-no regulation over what data can be collected by mobile apps.
“Every day millions of Americans use mobile applications to help us get through the day, but many consumers do not know their data is being collected. This privacy breach is just not 1s and 0s, it’s personal information, including our location at any given moment, our photos, messages and many of the things meant only for our friends and loved ones,” said Rep. Johnson in an interview with NBC. “Yet we lack basic rights to control how and how much of our data is collected on our phones, iPads and tablets.”
The bill was drafted on the heels of a number of reports – from the likes of the FTC and Pew Internet Research Center – that show that consumers are increasingly concerned about their privacy when it comes to their mobile device usage. The report from Pew reports that “57% of all app users have either uninstalled an app over concerns about having to share their personal information, or declined to install an app in the first place for similar reasons.” This is not surprising given a report by the FTC in December 2012 showed that only 20 percent of reviewed apps disclosed any information about the app’s privacy practices.
While the “Apps Act” has yet to be enacted into law, mobile app developers are already taking a closer look at their privacy and data collection features in anticipation of the Act becoming law. In the meantime, I believe we as marketers need to consider how we will address the concerns of our consumers, with or without laws to guide us. I personally believe we have a responsibility to disclose to our consumers what data is being collected from mobile apps and how it may be used, in the same way we do for email newsletters and online accounts. The full disclosure creates trust between us and the consumer and, in the end, that trust can make the difference between a customer for life and someone who complains about us on Twitter!