Internet users in Northern Ireland are the most concerned in the whole of the UK when it comes to privacy and security issues when downloading apps.
Almost 80 per cent of people here admit to being either fairly or very concerned about how safe their personal information will be if they download certain apps from certain sites.
The survey, conducted by YouGov, was carried out for the Information Commissioner’s Office ahead of the Christmas rush to download apps on new tablets.
On Christmas Day last year 328 million apps were downloaded, proving the most popular day of the year when it comes to this kind of online activity.
Of the 64 people from Northern Ireland who responded to the online survey, just over half said privacy concerns would prevent them downloading apps, some of which can access and share personal data.
Research for Channel Four last year showed that it can be easy for apps on some Android phones to allow advertisers to see personal information.
ICO Assistant Commissioner for Northern Ireland, Ken Macdonald, said while apps can be very useful and entertaining, there are dangers people should also be aware of.
“Apps do all sorts of weird and wonderful things, helping someone chat with their friends, find a local restaurant or see what’s on at their local cinema. However, they often work by using personal information. This can include information you would not normally choose to give out to a stranger, such as the contact details of friends and relatives and details of your location.
“The survey published today shows people are clearly concerned about the privacy implications of this technology. Our tips aim to address this concern by showing people how they can stay in control of their personal information, while enjoying the benefits provided by the apps many of us will be downloading this Christmas.”
Mr Macdonald said app developers need to address the issues of consumer trust.“The app development industry is one of the UK’s fastest growing industries, but our survey shows over half of all app users in Northern Ireland have rejected an app due to privacy concerns. It is important that developers tackle this issue by making sure their apps look after personal information correctly.
“Our guidance will help them achieve this by explaining the legal requirements when using personal information,” he said.
“That includes how to obtain lawful consent, the measures required to keep people’s information secure and advice on carrying out routine testing and maintenance.
“These are issues that must be considered at the start of the development process, but once addressed will help developers in the UK comply with the Data Protection Act and have the best chance of achieving commercial success.”
Top tips for keeping your personal information secure when using apps:
1) Only download apps from official and trusted app stores. Be extremely careful of using untrusted sources.
2) Read the information available about an app in the app store before you download it. Check you are happy about the personal information it will be using.
3) Have a regular clear-out. Many of us have downloaded an app and only used it once. If you no longer use the app, uninstall it.
4) Consider downloading mobile security software to help keep your device secure.