Nano-Notice: Privacy Disclosure at a Mobile Scale

Privacy and Security

Article Snapshot


Tom Lowenthal and Aleecia McDonald


Journal of Information Policy, Vol. 3, pp. 331-354, 2013


Mobile phones apps must offer privacy policies, but the small size of mobile phone screens makes it hard to deliver notices effectively. Developers must choose which information to highlight, and when it should be delivered. TRUSTe and Privacy Choice offer helpful tools.

Policy Relevance

Privacy notices should be short and clear. An app’s notice of privacy practices should be delivered before the app is purchased.

Main Points

  • Privacy policies have been a disappointment, because most consumers do not read them, let alone choose sites by comparing sites’ different privacy policies.
  • Phones typically have small screens, and phone users tend to be distracted, making it hard to deliver notice effectively.
  • TRUSTe and Privacy Choice offer tools for mobile app developers; both generate short, reasonably effective privacy notices, but the notices should be clarified.
  • Developers could deliver notices effectively to users by highlighting only the most relevant privacy policy information, but it can be hard to choose which information to highlight.
  • Surprisingly, study participants (mostly young and male) ranked collection of location data low on their list of concerns; while collection of name and contact information ranked towards the top, as did data sharing.
  • The current trend is to deliver privacy information in small pieces “just in time,” that is, as it becomes relevant to the user of the app, but if the app is not free, most users would prefer notice to be delivered before payment.
  • About 10% of users did not want any notice of data collection at all.


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