Half of U.S. teen app users avoid an app due to privacy

Aug. 25, 2013 at 11:25 PM
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PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Almost 6-in-10 U.S. teens say they have downloaded an app, but more than half of teen app users avoided an app due privacy concerns, researchers say.

Lead author Mary Madden, senior researcher for the Pew Research Center's Internet Project, and colleagues at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University found 26 percent of teen app users have uninstalled an app because they learned it was collecting personal information.

In addition, 46 percent of teen app users turned off location tracking features on their cellphone or in an app because they were worried about the privacy of their information.

In focus group discussions, participants said they primarily downloaded social media and game apps to their phones and tablets, though they also downloaded apps relating to music, news and the weather. When choosing which apps to download, participants stated that they typically downloaded free ones.

Survey data showed boys stand out as the most active app downloaders, and girls were most likely to disable location tracking features on their phones and in apps.

"Teens are on the front lines of figuring out the complex world of privacy management of on their mobile devices," Madden said in a statement. "They realize that cellphones can be used to monitor their whereabouts, and they will avoid apps if they feel like the data requests are unnecessary or excessive."

The findings were based on a U.S. phone survey of 802 parents and their 802 teens ages 12-17, conducted July 26-Sept. 30, 2012. The margin of error for the full sample was 4.5 percentage points.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard gathered data from focus groups from February to April.

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