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Mobile users tend to distrust their phones

A new survey shows that more than half of U.S. cell phone owners are concerned about apps leeching their private and personal information.

Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project

It turns out over half of U.S. mobile users are paranoid about their privacy -- not that they don't have reason to be. According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, 57 percent of mobile app users have either uninstalled or refused to install apps because of privacy concerns.

"Many cell phone users take steps to manage, control, or protect the personal data on their mobile devices," wrote the survey's authors, Jan Lauren Boyles, Aaron Smith, and Mary Madden. "More than half of mobile application users have uninstalled or avoided certain apps due to concerns about the way personal information is shared or collected by the app."

The survey included interviews from more than 2,000 adults in the U.S. during March and April of this year. Eighty-eight percent of these people own cell phones and 43 percent said they download apps to their phones. According to the survey, it didn't matter what type of phone people owned, the app distrust was fairly equal between iPhone, Android, and other users.

According to Pew, here's what some users do to protect their privacy:

  • 41 percent of cell owners back up the photos, contacts, and other files on their phone so they have a copy in case their phone is ever broken or lost
  • 32 percent of cell owners have cleared the browsing history or search history on their phone
  • 19 percent of cell owners have turned off the location-tracking feature on their cell phone because they were concerned that other individuals or companies could access that information

The survey's authors note that smartphone owners tend to more vigilant in backing up and protecting their data -- more than half back up their phones, clear the search history, and one-third has turned off the location-tracking feature.

Reason exists to give cell phone owners cause. Mobile apps have been accused of privacy violations multiple times in the past and reports show that malware attacks on smartphones are increasing at an alarmingly fast pace.

It has become such an issue that earlier this year Facebook announced it was requiring privacy policies in mobile apps and California's attorney general, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others banned together to require developers to inform users about data usage policies before they download apps.