A survey of over 1,200 mobile apps by 26 privacy regulators from across the world has shown that a high number of apps are accessing large amounts of personal information without adequately explaining how people’s information is being used.

The survey by the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) examined the privacy information provided by 1,211 mobile apps. As a member of GPEN, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office examined 50 of the top apps released by UK developers.

Today GPEN has published the results of its research. The key findings are:


85% of the apps surveyed failed to clearly explain how they were collecting, using and disclosing personal information.


More than half (59%) of the apps left users struggling to find basic privacy information.

1 in 3

Almost 1 in 3 apps appeared to request an excessive number of permissions to access additional personal information.


43% of the apps failed to tailor privacy communications to the small screen, either by providing information in a too small print, or by hiding the information in lengthy privacy policies that required scrolling or clicking through multiple pages. .


The research did find examples of good practice, with some apps providing a basic explanation of how personal information is being used, including links to more detailed information if the individual wants to know more. The regulators were also impressed by the use of just-in-time notifications on certain apps that informed users of the potential collection, or use, of personal data as it was about to happen. These approaches make it easier for people to understand how their information is being used and when.

ICO Group Manager for Technology, Simon Rice, said:

“Apps are becoming central to our lives, so it is important we understand how they work and what they are doing with our information. Today’s results show that many app developers are still failing to provide this information in a way that is clear and understandable to the average consumer.

“The ICO and the other GPEN members will be writing out to those developers where there is clear room for improvement. We will also be publishing guidance to explain the steps people can take to help protect their information when using mobile apps.”

The ICO has published ‘Privacy in Mobile Apps’ guidance to help app developers in the UK handle people’s information correctly and meet their requirements under the UK Data Protection Act. The guidance includes advice on informing people how their information will be used. Research carried out last year to support the guidance’s launch showed that 49% of app users have decided not to download an app due to privacy concerns.

View the full results of the survey

See our guidance for mobile apps developers

Notes to Editors

About the ICO 
1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

3. The ICO is on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn, and produces a monthly e-newsletter.

4. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:

  • Fairly and lawfully processed
  • Processed for limited purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • Accurate and up to date
  • Not kept for longer than is necessary
  • Processed in line with your rights
  • Secure
  • Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection

About the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) 
5. The Global Privacy Enforcement Network was established in 2010 upon recommendation by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Its aim is to foster cross-border cooperation among privacy regulators in an increasingly global market in which commerce and consumer activity relies on the seamless flow of personal information across borders. Its members seek to work together to strengthen personal privacy protections in this global context. The informal network is comprised of 51 privacy enforcement authorities in 39 jurisdictions around the world.

6. If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070.