A study released yesterday highlights mobile phone users' biggest concerns regarding how their personal data is shared. These perceptions inform their decisions on apps they use, reading ToS agreements, and opting in or out of services.

Many mobile customers are concerned with privacy and security issues, and want to be able to control the data their devices collect. A study by TRUSTe (PDF) of US adults who own a smartphone was conducted online in February 2011, and shows how differently some are coping with these issues, as well as how they relate to mobile apps and their app stores.

Privacy is the top primary concern for smartphone users at 38 percent - consumers are concerned about their privacy when using their handsets in general, especially when using mobile apps. Concern "increases with the age of the user." Privacy was specifically defined in this study as "your info is shared with others without your permission."

Security is the second highest primary concern at 26 percent. Nearly all users (98 percent) want better control over how mobile devices and apps collect and use personal data.

Identity was the main concern of nineteen percent of smartphone users, and data sharing made up fourteen percent. 77 percent of consumers do not want to share location data with developers. Nearly three-quarters of all survey respondents are uncomfortable with ad tracking, and 85 percent "want to be able to opt into or out of targeted mobile ads."

Consumers are exploring the boundaries of their mobile privacy comfort zone - they do not feel in control of their personal information, but they still want to make use of apps that use that data. They want easily accessible privacy controls, and they do not want to read privacy policies.

Among security precautions, a strong password is the most common taken, and after that is reading app disclosures. Of the 42 percent who responded that they read and understand these details concerning the use of personal information, most had owned smartphones for longer.

Many users believe that their app stores provide security - 25 percent responded that their store only makes available apps that safeguard privacy. 38 percent of this minority feel confident that the mobile apps protect information privacy. Of this same group, more owned iPhones or BlackBerrys (28 percent each) than other platforms.

By Ivory King