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Mobile apps in the spotlight during Privacy Awareness Week

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is calling on Australians to take steps during Privacy Awareness Week (4–10 May 2014) to protect their privacy when using mobile apps.

‘Our Community Attitudes to Privacy research shows that many Australians have wised up to the fact that many mobile apps collect personal information. Nearly half (48%) of Australians believe that most or some smartphone apps collect information about users of them,’ said Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.

‘So I strongly encourage everyone to take some time out this week to find out how the apps you have downloaded on your mobile device use your personal information. You may get a surprise. You could also take the opportunity to clear out unused apps and update your security software.’

Mobile apps are also the focus of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities Forum, with the release of some simple tips that mobile app users can use to protect their privacy on their mobile device.

The OAIC has taken steps to ensure better privacy practices in the mobile app industry. Last year it released Mobile privacy: A better practice guide for mobile app developers. The Guide assists mobile app developers to embed better privacy practices into their products, and to comply with Australian privacy law.

‘People are increasingly demanding transparency about how their personal information is handled. Research from the United States has shown that 57 per cent of app users in the United States (PDF) have either uninstalled an app over concerns about having to share their personal information or declined to install an app in the first place for similar reasons. App developers must adopt a “privacy by design” approach from the beginning of an app’s development to make sure it is privacy-friendly. Mobile apps that take privacy seriously will stand out in the marketplace and gain user trust and loyalty,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

The OAIC will also highlight privacy issues associated with mobile apps when it participates in an international mobile app privacy sweep next week, an initiative of the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN).

‘Mobile apps have emerged as a global privacy issue requiring a global response from privacy authorities. Next week, the OAIC will join over 27 privacy authorities around the world to examine mobile apps to identify privacy issues. We will examine 50 of Australia’s most popular apps. This includes checking if the app explains why it collects personal information and what it will do with it. I look forward to sharing the results of sweep later this year,’ Timothy Pilgrim said.

For interview requests please call: Ms Leila Daniels     0407 663 968

Notes for Editors

GPEN privacy sweep

  • The second Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) Privacy Sweep will take place 12 to 18 May 2014.
  • GPEN was established to foster cross-border cooperation among privacy authorities.
  • This year, 27 privacy enforcement authorities are participating in the Sweep – up from 19 in 2013.
  • Participating authorities will participate in a coordinated effort to examine privacy issues related to mobile applications.
  • Participants will be looking at the types of permissions an app is seeking and whether those permissions exceed what would be expected based on the app’s functionality, but also how the app explains to consumers why it wants the information and what it will do with it.
  • Concerns identified during the Sweep may result in follow-up work such as outreach to organisations and/or enforcement actions.
  • The goals of the Sweep initiative include: increasing public and business awareness of privacy rights and responsibilities; encouraging compliance with privacy legislation; identifying concerns which may be addressed with targeted education and/or enforcement; and enhancing cooperation amongst privacy enforcement authorities.
  • The results of this year’s Sweep will be compiled and made public later in 2014.

OAIC Community Attitudes to Privacy survey

The OAIC’s 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey results can be accessed here:

Mobile apps developers guide

The OAIC’s Mobile privacy: A better practice guide for mobile app developers is available here:

Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities Forum

A new poster, created by APPA members and released for Privacy Awareness Week, describes six simple steps users can take to protect their privacy on their mobile device. See

These are:

  1. Beware of untrusted apps — only use apps from reputable sources
  2. Avoid apps that leak your information — check what permissions the app wants to use before installing it. Do you really want it to copy and the details of all your contacts?
  3. User anti-virus software — some apps can contain viruses and malware. Always ensure your devices have up-to-date anti-virus and malware protection
  4. Clear out unused apps — if you don’t use an app, why keep it? It takes up memory and could still be operating in the background
  5. Erase all apps before you recycle — when you are no longer using a mobile device, delete all its apps and restore it to its original factory settings
  6. Protect your device — make sure you have a PIN or other form of access control. Without it, what would happen if you lost your mobile device or had it stolen?

Privacy Awareness Week (4–10 May 2014) is the primary privacy awareness and education event in the Asia Pacific region. For more information see