The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is warning consumers to protect their personal information when downloading mobile apps, particularly after a Christmas rush to buy smartphones and tablets.
The ICO has published some 'top tips' to help consumers stay in control of their data when using mobile apps, along with guidance to help developers look after people’s information correctly.
An online survey carried out by YouGov for the ICO last month found that 59 percent of adults in the UK had downloaded an app. But the survey also found that 62 percent of people who have downloaded an app are concerned about the way apps can use their personal information.
The survey found 49 percent of app users have decided not to download an app due to privacy concerns.
ICO principal policy advisor for technology Simon Rice said: “Apps do all sorts of weird and wonderful things but they often work by using personal information.
"This can include information you would not normally choose to give out to a stranger, such as the contact details of friends and relatives and details of your location."
The ICO's top tips for keeping personal information secure when using apps:
Only download apps from official and trusted app stores. Be extremely careful of using untrusted sources
Read the information available about an app in the app store before you download it. Check you are happy about the personal information it will be using
Have a regular clear-out. Many of us have downloaded an app and only used it once. If you no longer use the app, uninstall it
Consider downloading mobile security software to help keep your device secure
Make sure you erase any apps from a phone before you donate, resell or recycle a device, as these may have to access to your personal information. You should be able to find a 'factory reset' option in the device settings
The ICO said its guidance for app developers will help the developer community address the public’s concerns, by demonstrating they are looking after people’s information correctly and complying with the Data Protection Act.
Rice said: “The app development industry is one of the UK’s fastest growing industries, but our survey shows almost half of app users have rejected an app due to privacy concerns. It is important that developers tackle this issue by making sure their apps look after personal information correctly."
He said: “Our guidance will help them achieve this by explaining the legal requirements when using personal information. That includes how to obtain lawful consent, the measures required to keep people’s information secure and advice on carrying out routine testing and maintenance.
"These are issues that must be considered at the start of the development process, but once addressed will help developers in the UK comply with the Data Protection Act and have the best chance of achieving commercial success.”