Some Aussies prepared to risk security and privacy for free apps: report

Fifty-three per cent out of 695 Australians surveyed don't worry about getting a virus on their smartphone when downloading free apps

Australians are being urged to take a smarter approach to smartphone security after a study found that some consumers don’t worry about getting a virus on their smartphone when they download free apps.

Fifty-three per cent out of 695 Australians surveyed by Norton in October 2014 said they aren't concerned about getting a virus on their smartphone, while 31 per cent admitted that they don't know what they are agreeing to when they download a free app.

In addition, 33 per cent of the respondents said they would give up their physical location details in exchange for a free app.

Commenting on the findings, Norton business unit territory manager Mark Gorrie said consumers are not reading end-user licence agreements before they download apps.

“Many users fail to understand how they may be compromising their own privacy when accepting app permissions,” he said.

Norton researchers in the United States conducted trials during April 2014 which involved scanning two million Android apps. The trials found that personally identifiable information (PII) such as the phone number, username, password, call log information, pictures and text messages were accessed by one third of the apps.

Approximately 13 per cent of the Android apps scanned sent a user’s phone number to a third party.

In 2013, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) released a guide to help mobile app developers embed better privacy practices into their products.

At the time, Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said consumers need to have “informed consent” so they can decide whether or not to install an app. Informed consent requires users be told about the privacy implications of an app in a way they can understand.

“App developers should make it easy by using a privacy dashboard and in-text notices where you tell users what will happen with their information in real time,” he said.

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