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Mobile App Users Reluctant to Share Location

Even when utility is clear, many choose not to share

November 25, 2015

Privacy and security are critical to mobile users, most of whom have some understanding of how revealing their mobile data—including location—can be to advertisers, publishers, governments and other internet users. And for many, that means not using location services at all, potentially diminishing their mobile experiences.

Leading App Categories for Which US Mobile App Users Have Turned on Location Services, July 2015 (% of respondents)

According to research from mobile location services provider Skyhook Wireless, US mobile app users are more likely to turn on location services for weather apps than for any other category—but even then, when the utility of location-sharing is obvious, 35% of app users refuse to do so.

For other app categories, the share of users who enabled location services was even lower, dropping to 16% for news apps—another category where specifying location would seem useful in bringing users local stories, for example.

“Normal, everyday users looking to get value out of an app often don’t understand what they’re getting out of location services,” said Mike Schneider, VP marketing at Skyhook Wireless. Before agreeing to share their location, users must understand the value exchange—that they will get something worthwhile in return.

Of course, app developers must also deliver that something worthwhile. “Make sure that whatever you promise, you pay up,” said Schneider.

US Smartphone Users Who Are Comfortable with Apps Accessing Their Location, Aug 2015 (% of respondents)

August research from comScore found that most US smartphone users are ambivalent about sharing their location with apps. Just 13% strongly agreed that they were comfortable doing so—but only 12% strongly disagreed with the proposition.

Earlier research found that nearly eight in 10 US internet users worried smart devices would reveal their location without their knowledge.

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