More than half of consumers aren’t concerned with the security of payment apps (Survey)

Being a digital native, you surely understand the inherent risk of sharing your personal data with apps and individuals online. But be honest: when you’re in a rush or distracted, who among us hasn’t signed off on a privacy policy without actually reading it?

According to the latest from Money Crashers, the number of people who are guilty of this behavior is far from slim. In a survey of 1,000 Americans, the site found that over 80% don’t read privacy policies of payment apps before signing up.

What’s especially concerning about these results is that they’re specific to payment apps like PayPal, Venmo, Cashapp, and others who have access not only to our personal data, but to financial information that could place users at significantly higher risk than other apps in different industries.

Given how much information can be exposed through these payment apps, it’s particularly troubling that over half of respondents in the survey said they aren’t even concerned about their security when it comes to these apps. More than two-thirds said they had never decided against downloading a payment app after discovering lax security protections embedded in their privacy policy.



What is it that makes people so cavalier about their most trusted information? There are a few possible reasons.

They Don’t Know What a Privacy Policy Is

Believe it or not, one of the big issues is that people don’t actually understand what a privacy statement is. In 2014, the Pew Research Center ran a survey on the public’s understanding of key technology concepts and found that 52% of users believed that a company simply having a privacy policy meant their data was being kept private.

In actuality, a privacy statement only explains how users’ data is going to be used — and to what degree it will be kept private. The privacy statement may be disclosing that your data won’t be kept private at all!

It Takes Too Long

The first is that reading full privacy policies can seem unfeasible. The average privacy policy is nearly 4,000 words long. At the average adult reading speed of 250 to 300 words per minute, each privacy statement would require at least 15 minutes of time — likely longer, since the language in these statements can also be more complicated than normal speech.

What many don’t know is that you don’t need to read the entirety of a privacy policy in order to learn whether or not it protects your data. You just have to skim the document thoroughly enough to determine these seven key things:
  • What information the app is collecting
  • Whether your information will be used for secondary purposes (such as marketing)
  • Whether your information will be shared with third parties
  • What the app’s policy is on sharing information with law enforcement
  • Whether information is protected in all phases of collection and storage
  • Whether the app allows users to delete their data
  • Whether the app uses personal information to build user profiles for non-primary use
Skimming the document for these pieces of information should only take a few minutes, which is a much more reasonable expectation of time.

Benefits Outweigh the Risks

Another reason that people place too much trust in apps is that they feel the convenience outweighs the risk to their data. A 2019 survey by The Manifest on people’s willingness to allow location tracking on certain mobile apps found that 42% cited convenience as their main motivator for allowing location tracking. Since location tracking is required for highly useful functions like navigation, real-time location coordinating with others, and gaining access to local resources, these users are willing to sacrifice privacy for access to increased functionality.

Similarly, person-to-person payment apps like PayPal and Venmo can alleviate a lot of common obstacles to daily life, from splitting the bill at a restaurant to coordinating group purchases. The benefits of these apps provide a powerful incentive to disregard potential security risks.



The thing to note, however, is that privacy policies provide information that can inform not just whether or not you are willing to use the app, but how you choose to use the app to protect your data. For instance, Venmo transactions can be public, public to friends, or private; locking all transactions to private can help protect your privacy and safety from potential hackers.

The Bottom Line

For those who already read most privacy policies, this news should be a welcome reminder to keep doing what you’re doing — though it can feel tedious, the time spent reading those statements is well worth the effort.

For those who are less fastidious about reading privacy policies, this should be a wake-up call that not doing so can be an extremely dangerous behavior that places you and your data at risk. If the reason you skip reading the privacy policy is lack of time or confusion about how to read them, you now have the tips you need to read privacy policies efficiently, saving you time and protecting your security simultaneously!

Read next: Lack of Address Registry for Majority of Apps Shows Sorry State of Consumer Data Protection

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