How much do you trust your phone?
More specifically, how much do you trust the apps on your phone?
With most apps comes lengthy terms and conditions that include the ability to track our every move, so it’s a wonder many of us tap “agree” without a second thought.
Southern Cross University researcher Michael Bryant has been studying the use of weather apps on smartphones for more than five years and has become fascinated with the issue of “trust” between users and their phones.
“A lot of people used to listen to the radio for weather updates, but now all that information is in their pockets,” said Mr Bryant, a Southern Cross University PhD candidate.
“Now the information is plentiful, do we trust that info, and do we trust the people delivering it?”
He said many people traded away their personal information because weather apps were both useful and beneficial, for example, enabling people to take action before a storm rolled into their area.
“People find that enabling location services on their weather apps is particularly useful as real-time information from local weather towers not only helps people plan trips and recreation, but also enables them to take evasive, life-saving action if inclement weather is on the way,” he said.
“Anecdotally a significant amount of people only trusted the Bureau of Meteorology as the best source of information.”
Mr Bryant said people tended to be more trusting of a weather app they download, as they felt more invested in it than ones already installed on their phone.
However, oftentimes downloaded apps not only require access to the user’s location, but also their contact lists, access to emails and other personal information.
“If you actually stopped to look at the disclaimers, sometimes weather apps request access to things such as contact lists, information which could actually be used and sold back to third parties including advertisers.
“Some businesses and U.S. Government agencies have retained information in the past. There was that whole ‘Candy Crush saga’ where the popular gaming app was said to be ‘leaky’ with personal information which becomes a privacy and security issue.”
It was his honours research article Swipe right with a chance of rain: weather app usage on smartphones which inspired Mr Bryant’s larger study into people’s acceptance, trust and value of weather apps on a range of smart mobile devices.
Supervisor and IT lecturer Dr Bill Smart from Southern Cross University’s School of Business and Tourism said people had entered an unprecedented age of technology and it was the aspects of trust, the “difficult multidimensional box” which needed to be measured.
“There’s not only the issue of whether people trust the weather information, it’s also whether they trust the app, the information system and the phone. These are all different types of trust, which is the key academic perspective in this research – quantifying the trust factor,” he said.
“We want to know whether people are concerned with trusting the app and its access to GPS location data and other personal information rather than just the accuracy of the information delivered.
“People have become so dependent on technology and are connected all the time, with weather updates largely coming from their phones instead of the radio and TV. Information is plentiful, but we are endeavouring to find out if people wholeheartedly trust the information, the providers of the app and the phone itself.”