The General American Populace’s Knowledge Regarding Data Harvesting Via Mobile Apps Is Rather Troubling, As A Study Reveals

A recent report by the folks at Security.Org looks into the general American populace’s knowledge regarding the privacy concerns that arise when operating a mobile device and its respective applications. The results proved to be troubling, to say the least.

First, let us establish the parameters of this study. Data was gathered from a survey of 1,011 American smartphone owners. 52% of the sample population consisted of men, 42% were women, and 1% were either nonbinary (non-confirmative). The mean age was calculated to be 36.9 years, with a standard deviation of 12.4, and majorly comprised of millennials, with other inclusions being Gen X, baby boomers, and Gen Z. 15 types of data collected by applications on mobile phones were measured, with quiz scores for individuals landing on a 0-15 marking scheme. Correctly identifying collected data by specific apps resulted in one point, while answering incorrectly or claiming to not know the answer dealt out no points. With our parameters established, let’s see what the study has in store.

General points of importance established by the results are as such: 98% of Americans ended up consenting to a fake consent form that, in a witty display, gave over rights of their firstborn child’s name to the researchers; all users that claimed to go through user agreement, terms of service, etc. ended up falling victim to the aforementioned form; and on average, the sample population could only gauge data collected via apps with a 54% accuracy. Immediately, the image formed is not a pretty one. America, being a first world country steeped in technological advances, lends to the image of a more aware public, yet results seem to not simply contradict, but highly clash with such a notion. Knowledge regarding data harvesting via applications is not at all prevalent in the population’s majority.

Smartphone users were queried after the measures they took in order to maintain online security, with the first line of defense being clauses and terms of agreement. Only 11% of the population claimed to completely read them, with 37% claiming to skim through, 16% keeping an eye out for points that may seem important, and 35% simply not bothering to. Which makes sense, really. Terms of Service and Conditions are often typed out to be long, overly drawn out, and delivered with vague technical jargon so as to actively discourage users from reading too much in between the lines. In fact, of the fake consent form mentioned above, only 16 out of the 1,011 individuals managed to catch the outstanding clause. 55% of users agreed that the forms were simply too long to read, 20% said that they were difficult to comprehend, with 10% claiming to trust the company behind them.

Moving on to the questionnaire, users were quizzed after 15 types of data that could potentially be collected by applications on a mobile device. The 15 marks were then graded up to out of a hundred, revealing the average marks to be 54/100, with 70 set as the passing bar. 78% of the sample population failed the test, and of the remaining 22%, only 1% scored more than 90.

Ultimately, the study decided to test the population’s stance towards governing such data harvesting. When asked whether or not they’d agree with the implementation of legislation that could affect personalized advertising on across social media feeds, 77% of all individuals wholeheartedly supported such an idea, with only 8% opposed to the notion, while the rest were undecided or had formed no solid opinions regarding the matter.

Take a look at these charts for more insights:
H/T: Security.ORG

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