Mobile applications have widespread use – almost 30 billion apps were downloaded in 2011 alone – but there are no hard-and-fast rules for privacy policies, making them confusing and often inconsistent among applications.
The Carnegie Mellon professor is no stranger to how consumers feel about mobile applications’ privacy policies. Professor Cranor discussed a study she conducted to determine whether Android smartphone users read or understood smartphone permissions screens. The study found that users did not understand how Android was protecting them, and were unaware of the security risks for mobile applications in general.
Other panelists suggested ways to better educate mobile app users. Ilana Westerman from Create with Context believes transparency is important for consumers to trust mobile applications. When consumers are aware of how the app will affect their data, they feel in control, she said; however, when expectations are violated, trust is eroded.
Ultimately, it comes down to giving consumers the information they need to know when reading and accepting privacy policies. People need to be able to make informed decisions, Professor Cranor said, and they should have meaningful choices.
About Lorrie Faith Cranor
Lorrie Faith Cranor is the Director and Bosch Distinguished Professor in Security and Privacy Technologies of CyLab and the FORE Systems Professor of Computer Science and of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. She also directs the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory (CUPS) and co-directs the MSIT-Privacy Engineering masters program. She teaches courses on privacy, usable security, and computers and society.