Pew: Nearly Half Of Teens Have Turned Off Mobile Location Tracking

mobile-apps-200pxThe Pew Internet & American Life project has released some new survey data about teens and mobile privacy. What the data reflect is that a majority of teens have downloaded apps and that they’re quite aware and sensitive to privacy issues, especially personal data collection and location tracking.

According to Pew 78 percent of teens have a mobile phone and 23 percent have a tablet. The following are the top-level findings from the study, which consisted of surveys and focus groups (for qualitative color):

  • 58 percent of all teens have downloaded mobile apps
  • 51 percent of teens have avoided apps due to privacy concerns
  • 26 percent of teens have uninstalled an app because it was collecting personal information
  • 46 percent of teen users have turned off location tracking features on their cell phone or in an app

Teens and location tracking

Among the 46 percent who disabled location tracking on the phone or in apps, there is a significant gender difference: 59 percent of girls have done so, compared with 37 percent of boys.

Just over half (51 percent) of teen downloaders decided against using apps that required sharing of personal information. This is more common among younger teens than those 14 to 17 years old.

The focus group comments reflect a mix of attitudes and feelings about privacy. Some users are more “permissive” while others more concerned about sharing information. The larger point is that most teens have considerable sophistication and awareness about privacy and data collection and they’re making decisions often on a case by case basis.

These survey findings again contradict often-heard assertions that teens have loose privacy standards or care less about privacy than older Americans. It also puts developers on notice that they need to be transparent about the reasons that data and/or location are being requested.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile Marketing | Statistics: Mobile Marketing | Statistics: Online Behavior | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Amy Fanter

    I have to ask … Is it the teens themselves or the parents who are making these privacy setting choices. My poor kid has no say in this > my husband and I simply don’t allow it because we are concerned for her safety.

  • gregsterling

    The teens were directly surveyed. It may be that in some number of these cases the parents are having a decisive influence. But my 13 year old daughter is pretty sophisticated about all this stuff. I would infer it’s mostly the teens themselves making these choices

  • Stuart L. Crawford

    is it ‘turning off’ something that was on by default or simply not allowing it to track from the initial install?

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