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Information Commissioner’s Office Publishes Guidelines for App Users

In order to help app developers abide by data protection laws, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has published a new set of guidelines. After finding that many smartphone and tablet users are concerned about how their data is used by apps, the ICO has also published advice on how to keep control of personal information when using these devices.

In a survey of 2,272 British people conducted recently by YouGov, it was found that of the 59% of users who had downloaded apps, 62% were concerned about the resulting privacy issues. Furthermore, 49% said that they had decided not to download at least one app as a cause of these concerns.

“On one hand, these are classic data protection problems. The Data Protection Act itself is technology-neutral, and just as applicable to apps as it is to websites and other businesses,” the ICO’s principal policy advisor for technology, Simon Rice, said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper.

He went on to add that “apps are slightly unique in that they’re often driven by a particular need – you need an app to show train times when you’re standing at the station, for example – and consumers may be more willing as a result to just press ‘OK’ and accept all the data permissions that an app requests.”

According to Rice, the ICO plans on following up the guidelines in the new year to ensure that they are being implemented.

The ICO’s privacy advice for app users

1. Only download apps from official and trusted app stores. Be extremely careful if 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.

5. Make sure you erase any apps from the phone before you donate, resell or recycle an old device, as these may have access to your personal information. You should be able to find a ‘factory reset’ option in the device settings.

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