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Typical Users Know Less About Mobile Privacy Than They Think

New Mobile Privacy IQ survey shows a disconnect between perception and practice.

While many mobile users today believe themselves to privacy savvy, the reality is that the typical device owner today still engages in some pretty risky behavior. So says the Mobile Privacy IQ study released by Lookout today, which examined perceptions and practices of over 1,000 smartphone users.

According to the survey, 41 percent of smartphone users consider themselves to have an above-average knowledge of mobile privacy matters. But amongst that group, a considerable number of them don't keep their side of the mobile screen clean. For example, amongst these self-professed experts, 35 percent say they connect to open public wi-fi networks, 34 percent don't set a pin or passcode on their phone, and 35 percent download mobile apps from unofficial marketplaces. Amongst those with the disconnect, Millennials are the worst.

"Study findings reveal that the self-proclaimed privacy gurus are the ones most likely to partake in behaviors that put their privacy at risk," the study reported. "Millennials partake in risky mobile behavior the most often, yet are first in line to claim the rights to being privacy experts."

Amongst the general population of mobile users, risky behavior increases. For example, 76 percent of all users connect to public or open wi-fi. Meanwhile 56 percent of users download apps without reading permissions and 37 percent plug into public charging stations.

Many users also seemed unwilling to give up the conveniences of mobile apps even when aware of the risks. About  44 percent reported that they felt apps could be mishandling or misusing their private information.  And one in three of users reported that they would provide app companies with more data about themselves if it meant they'd be able to use apps to make their lives easier.

"As it turns out, people expressed concern over how mobile apps are handling their information, but are also willing to trade their privacy for convenience," the report explained.

Most interesting to security gurus in the enterprise world, the survey's respondents were clear that they'd make more effort to secure personal data than their employer's business data. Approximately 60 percent of respondents said they cared least about the privacy of work data on their phones. Only 5 percent reported they'd take the most steps to protect work information.

"Despite the fact that this poses a potential risk to employers, findings show that personal data trumps work data when it comes to the information people would take the most steps to protect," the report showed.


Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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