Mobile Marketers May Encounter Consumer Privacy Concerns

In exchange for providing free or nearly-​free content and entertainment, marketers are successfully targeting online consumers by tracking their behavior and accessing information long considered personal. But, new research shows the ‘anything goes’ attitude about information sharing doesn’t extend to mobile devices. Will marketers have to find another way to access consumers and their network of friends?

If the future of personal communication is going to be all about smartphones and other mobile devices, instead of desktop computers, consumers have a message for marketers: Back off. University of California, Berkeley, researchers have been checking into the attitudes of mobile phone owners as these devices grow more ubiquitous. Currently, consumers store a great deal of personal information on their devices:

  •  Contact data: 82%
  • Text messages: 78%
  • Photos: 75%
  • Voice mail: 74%
  • Email: 48%
  • Info on website visits: 37%

Younger consumers are notably more likely, (30%), to believe that information on their smartphones is even more private than personal computer data. Most surveyed consumers do not want to lend their phones to strangers and just over 50% don’t like the idea of friends and family members using their phone,s either.

While consumers appear to be happy to ‘friend’ companies and ‘like’ their products, they also say they definitely would not allow:

  • A social networking app to collect their contact list and use it to suggest more friends: 51%
  • A coupon app to collect contact list information to send coupons to contacts: 75%

Consumers also occasionally use GPS services via mobile, 46%, but storing current or past location information still isn’t widely accepted with only 24% saying they do so.

As marketers continue to explore the best ways to promote products and services in the mobile universe, they’ll have to consider consumer opinion to avoid alienating their audiences and negatively affecting revenues.

[Source: Urban et al. Mobile Phones and Privacy. University of California, Berkeley. 10 Jul. 2012. Web. 24 Jul. 2012]


Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.