"To protect personal data, support innovation, preserve individual liberties"

Médiamétrie survey by Internet in November 2011 with 2315 individuals aged 15 and over, conducted in full compliance with french data protection Act (Law n° 78-17 relating to data, files and freedoms).

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Smartphone and privacy: Best Friends Forever?

03 January 2012

IPhone, Android phone, Windows Phone, BlackBerry ... These smart devices already were already bought by 17 million people in France, attracted by their varied features and by price discounts offered by operators. CNIL, the French data protection authority tried to better understand the way the French citizens use these new technological devices. What kind of personal data do they store on them (pictures, contacts info, bank details, PINs, medical information)? Are people aware of the sensitivity of several of these data? How do they protect them? To answer these questions, the CNIL and the Médiamétrie company performed an online survey with 2,315 smartphone users over 15 (Médiamétrie is an independent company that measures the audiences of the main audiovisual media)

Key findings:

The smartphone, a universal device that adapts to each of us

 

  • Each age has its requirements and favorite activity: 15-17 years for connection to their network and entertainment (30%), “multitasking” for 25-49 (30%) and “simple” communication for 50 and over (35%).
  • 22% of users store pictures on their smartphone and yet think it might be embarrassing to do so.
  • Half of smartphone owners are interested in the possibility to store loyalty cards and coupons (51%) or medical data (46%), especially for 50 and over (54%). Attractive new uses (for comfort or safety needs) seem very hungry for personal data: this issue will be a lasting one.

A companion for every moment

  • 7 out of 10 never turn their smartphone off...
  • ... and more than 1/4 turn it off only to go to sleep!

Which kind of data?

  • 89% store contact details and data, 86% multimedia data (photos / videos for 75%, calendar for 52%, notes and to-do lists for 41 %...)
  • 40% of smartphone owners store somehow “secret” data (bank info for 7%, PINs for 17%, access codes to buildings for 17%, medical information for 3%).
  • Globally, smartphone owners limit the storage of data if they consider them sensitive, such as bank details, codes or confidential files. In contrast, photos, videos or contact data are subject to fewer precautions.

A global lack of protection

  • 65% of smartphone owners think that the data stored in their phones are not well protected.
  • But 30% say they have no access code on their phone at all.
  • 64% do not see the point or think that it is not possible to install an antivirus on smartphone (20% of Android-phones owners have already installed one).

Opacity of personal data uses

  • 51% believe that data from a mobile phone can’t be stored or transmitted without their consent.
  • 46% think that the geolocation info will not be communicated without their consent.
  • Nearly half of respondants checks, at the time of downloading, which kind of data an application requires... but 71% rarely or never read general terms and conditions of use.

Focus on geolocation issues

  • 55% of smartphone owners have already used a geolocation service of some kind, especially for the practical aspects of service: traffic info, maps, directions, location-based services...
  • 97% of users of location-based services deem important to know how their location data are used.
  • And 65% of parents would likely use a feature to localize their children…

Actually, are teens an example to follow?

  • 82% of 15-17 year olds believe it is a bad practice to register their secret codes (against 76% on average).
  • 37% of 15-17 year olds use a specific lock code (against 31% on average).
  • 30% have finely tuned access to information they post on social network services (against 19% in average).

SECURITY AND CONTROL:  CNIL’s 10 privacy tips

  1. Do not record confidential information (PINs, access codes, bank account ...) in your smartphone (to avoid risks of theft, hacking, identity theft ...).
  2. Do not disable the PIN code and change the operator’s default one. Choose a somehow “complicated” code. Not your birthday!
  3. Set up an autolock time for the phone. In addition to the PIN, it will lock the phone after a while. This prevents the access to data in the phone if lost or stolen.
  4. When possible, enable encryption of the phone’s backups on your computer. For this, use the settings of the platform with which you connect the phone. This action will ensure that no one will be able to use your data stored on the computer without the password you set.
  5. Install an antivirus when possible.
  6. Write down the "IMEI" number of your phone. It can be used to remotely lock your telephone, if lost or stolen.
  7. Do not download application from unknown sources. Prefer official platforms.
  8. Check as closely as possible what data an application you’re installing will have access.
  9. Read the terms and conditions of service before installing an app. And user’s reviews may also be useful!
  10. Adjust the settings in the phone or in the location-based applications (Twitter, Foursquare, Plyce ...) to always control when and by whom you want to be geolocated. Turn off the GPS or WiFi when you do not use one location-based application.

Closing comments by Isabelle FALQUE-PIERROTIN, CNIL chairwoman: “Given their increasing role in everyday life, smartphones will represent a major subject of interest for CNIL in 2012. We want to inform users to help them better secure and control their personal data. We will also analyze and understand this particular ecosystem to provide manufacturers and application developers with best practices helping them offer more privacy-friendly products and services.”

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