Security concerns hamper the growth of mobile apps in Latin America

Telecom Lead America:  Mobile apps growth in Latin America is hampered by the concern among users over how personal data is collected and shared, says a new study by GSMA.

There is a lack of trust among users in the way personal data is collected and shared, the study conducted on 4,500 mobile users across Brazil, Colombia and Mexico said. The study shows that consumers want better privacy safeguards to be put in place and believe that mobile operators are the natural guardians of their privacy on mobile devices.

Eighty-eight percent of mobile app users are concerned that apps might collect personal information without their consent; half of those consumers with concerns would limit their use of apps unless better safeguards are put in place.

Further sixty percent of respondents would turn to their mobile operator if they suffered a serious invasion of privacy while using an app regardless of who was responsible. Only 31 percent would turn to their app store and 34 percent would go direct to the app developer.

The mobile apps market is globally worth US$29 billion and growing at 36 percent per annum.

Earlier this year Frost & Sullivan released a report on the status of enterprise apps market in Latin America. According to the report, the increasing mobile workforce in the region is driving the growth of the mobile enterprise in Latin America and offers significant opportunity for mobile operators to increase their revenue by wirelessly connecting on-the-move employees with the office through smart phones, cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

Without taking action to protect consumer privacy, Latin America risks falling behind other parts of the world in the adoption of new mobile services, GSMA said. Mobile operators recognize the need to work closely with governments and wider industry to address these issues. They are calling on policymakers to increase their level of engagement with the mobile ecosystem as new consumer protection laws are being drafted.

“It’s not the case that legislators can simply cut and paste old-world data protection rules into the modern mobile apps market,” said Tom Phillips, chief government and regulatory affairs officer at the GSMA. “They need to consider solutions that reflect the new market realities, such as the privacy icons currently being developed in the USA[2], which will provide consumers with simple ways to understand their privacy choices and control their data.”

Location based services (LBS) are another area of concern among users with 92 percent of respondents saying they want to be asked permission to share their location with a service or an app. However, 47 percent of the most popular apps transmit the phone’s unique device identity to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Further 74 percent of those using location services regularly are concerned that their location was being shared with third parties without their permission.

Unless these services are provided directly by mobile operators, these concerns can be very real due to the fact that different laws and regulations apply. Mobile operators have tight restrictions on the use of location information, whereas services provided by internet companies have no such restrictions.

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