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Do we as consumers of mobile technology want more privacy or more convenience? The more we rely on technology, the more we seem to constantly be asked to make trade-offs between the two. In this article, we explore some of the considerations surrounding privacy and convenience and why choosing one above the other is unlikely to be an easy decision.


The ‘State of Mobile in 2019’ report* published by mobile app analytics company, App Annie, provides many useful insights into the global mobile economy.

The App Annie report explores mobile app (iOS and Android) trends in 2018 across multiple industries including gaming, retail, restaurant and food delivery, banking and finance and travel, with a focus on the world’s leading economies.

In one example, the report compared data between 2016 and 2018 and observed a 140% increase in ‘time spent on the world’s top 5 video streaming apps’. Our love for video streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu and now Disney shows no sign of waning anytime soon.

Mobile is undoubtedly a major catalyst in the growth of the global digital economy. App Annie predicts that “global spending on technologies and services that enable digital transformation will hit nearly $2 trillion by 2022”.

The report itself is an interesting read (we are already looking forward to the 2019/2020 version). However, it does not tell us much about consumer attitudes toward privacy. So, we’ve done our own analysis and arrived at some conclusions on why choosing privacy over convenience might be an impossible task.


#1: We still can’t say goodbye to Facebook!

Brushing aside public disgust over their lack of transparency and the negative headlines that seem to follow them, Facebook emerged as ‘the world’s top consumer app in 2018’. This was measured by ‘monthly active users’ (MAU) on both iPhone and Android, according to App Annie.

In fact, Facebook-owned digital apps (including Instagram and WhatsApp) took four of the five spots in the worldwide ranking for both active usage and number of downloads.

While there is some evidence of declining interest in the platform, as well as ongoing concerns about its susceptibility to propagandists, it seems that the #DeleteFacebook movement and other Mark Zuckerberg faux pas have done little more than to cause a blip in user interest of the platform.

While users of the platform continue to complain about Facebook’s lack of transparency on one hand, on the other, those same users will readily embrace viral trends such as the recent ‘10-Year Ageing Challenge’, disregarding any potential privacy implications. Facebook still has people hooked.


#2: When it comes to food, consumers will choose convenience over privacy

“Globally, downloads of the top 5 food delivery apps have grown 115% in 2018 vs. 2016” according to the App Annie report.

Mobile technology is increasingly bridging the physical and digital divide in the foodservice industry. With the ongoing penetration of smartphones globally, the online ordering trend appears to be benefitting the food industry and restaurants.

We can now enjoy restaurant-quality meals from the comfort of our sofas…and we love it! Who needs to dress up and brave the cold weather when Deliveroo and UberEats are just a convenient phone tap away?

If all that stands between us and our gourmet pizza is a privacy notice to ‘Accept all Cookies’ (excuse the pun), it seems that the pizza will win every time.


#3: Despite the GDPR buzz, we’re still in love with online shopping

Conventional wisdom suggests that most people who own smartphones have used online shopping apps to make purchases at some point.

Declining customer footfall is one of the challenges facing the retail industry. It is no surprise therefore that large retailers are pushing full steam ahead with their eCommerce strategies.

By offering personalised marketing and loyalty rewards, consumers are staying hooked to online shopping. App Annie predicts that ‘mobile is set to comprise nearly 75% of total eCommerce transactions by 2021’.

The European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) caused many in the retail industry to pause and reflect over their stewardship of customer personal data. From the GDPR, we expected a decline in unsolicited marketing from retailers. 

However, what we’ve seen in 2019 is a resumption of the ‘gold rush’ for our personal data. And because we prefer the ease of ‘click-and-delivery’ services over pounding the high streets and shopping malls, it seems we’re unlikely to complain too much.


#4: Will you give banks your personal data in exchange for a better experience?

The way we do retail banking and use consumer financial services is changing.

“Retail banking apps topped the average MAU charts for finance apps” in 2018. The report further highlights 2018 as a noteworthy year for fintech (financial technology) apps, with many providers crossing over into traditional consumer banking.

The more agile, ‘digital-first’ banks capitalised on the growing number of consumers spending more time on their phones to push further into democratising financial services. In 2019, banking and fintech providers have continued to leverage insights from the way we use our mobile phones to improve their app designs and offer personalised experiences.

Consumers, perhaps oblivious to how their personal data is being collected and shared, are likely to forgive the intrusion if it means making payments, saving, investing and transferring funds without dealing with traditional banking industry bottlenecks.


#5: Your digital virtual assistant may know too much

The ‘connected-home’ refers to the increasing use of IoT (internet-of-things) and ‘smart devices’ in our homes. These include digital (voice-controlled) assistants, home security monitors, energy controllers and internet-enhanced appliances.

General interest in the use of IoT devices is growing. By inference, more smart devices in our homes means that we are using more connected-home mobile apps. Together, these apps and devices are likely to collect data about our lifestyles and habits and how we use them.

According to a recent PwC survey, only 22% of respondents cited privacy as a barrier to adoption. However, only time will tell whether data breaches (such as this one where Amazon-owned Ring provided inappropriate access to view door-camera footage) will impact consumer interest in the connected home sector.

The more noteworthy interaction with smart devices is via voice-controlled virtual assistants. Although physical equivalents are proving popular, the most common everyday use of this technology is still via pre-loaded smartphone assistants like Google and Siri**. 

Virtual assistants and voice search are an exciting addition to our lives and we’re unlikely to give them up. We’re using them for everything from searching for music to making shopping lists. However, their ‘always-listening’ capabilities provide a major opportunity for marketers and malicious actors to intrude even further into our lifestyle and habits.


Privacy or Convenience. It’s Your Choice Ultimately

The question, therefore, is not whether we will continue to use these lifestyle-enhancing technologies. With the convenience they offer, that seems to be a moot point. Rather, the question remains; how much privacy are we willing to give up in exchange for the convenience they offer? It’s your choice.


Disclaimer: This was not a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. A version of this article was first published on LinkedIn in January 2019.


*The State of Mobile in 2019 report by App Annie

** Source: Zazzle Media