It’s an issue that brands often ignore, but over the last few weeks privacy in mobile and online has been at the forefront of the news. We had Google storing WiFi location information, we’ve had Android and iPhone storing users’ location data and Sony’s hacking problems which saw over 100,000 users’ data compromised. In a recent poll by The Wall Street Journal nearly 50% of 8,000 respondents said they were ‘very concerned’ that Apple were tracking and storing location information. This was confirmed by a Nielsen study which found that 52% of men and 56% of women also had privacy concerns about their smartphones.
From Apple’s perspective this was not a deliberate attempt to access this information but rather a bug in the operating system, that has been updated in a version of the iOS 4.3.3 which has just been released. Apple are different to Google. The latter are very much in the business of selling advertising, and location-based information is useful to that end. Apple, however are basically in the business of selling devices, their OS and apps (iAd aside).
However, it is significant that such a large number of people should show concern about the storing of location information. The internet has posed a threat to individual privacy for many years, not least of which, privacy issues from social media. But when it comes to mobile phones the issue of privacy is even greater. Mobiles are the most personal devices that we have – we don’t share them and it’s often where our most personal of communications happen. When brands get involved with mobile they are entering into, perhaps the most personal space of all. The same sentiment was obvious in a slightly different context. When we carried out our messaging study (DMA/IAB 2010) issues such as trust and control were important factors for people to accept brand marketing on their mobile phones.
We are now seeing a rapid growth in mobile marketing and advertising. Whilst privacy policies offer some consumer protection, ultimately it is essential that brands go out of their way to ensure that they are projecting their customers’ information as well as they possibly can. For many people, they clearly don’t feel that is the case.