Mobile Security, Privacy Concerns Decreasing

U.S. consumers remain reluctant to conduct financial transactions on their phones, finds KPMG survey.
Consumers in the United States are worrying less about the security of their mobile devices and related data privacy issues, but most still aren't comfortable with using mobile devices to conduct financial transactions.

Those findings come from a KPMG survey, released Monday, of more than 5,600 people, including 300 U.S.-based consumers. The study, which updates a similar KPMG survey conducted 18 months ago, queried people on their day-to-day use of computers, smartphones, mobile applications, and the Internet.

Today, 48% of U.S. consumers are very concerned about privacy when using a mobile device, down from 58% in 2008. Meanwhile, 54% said they were concerned with security today, down from 65% in 2008.

But people in the United States remain more cautious than their global counterparts about using mobile devices to conduct financial transactions, perhaps mirroring the slower uptake of mobile devices and SMS here, compared with consumers in Europe and Asia.

Indeed, only 16% of U.S. consumers are comfortable with using their mobile phone to handle mobile banking or credit card transactions, compared with one-third of consumers globally. Likewise, only about 10% of U.S. consumers have used their mobile for e-commerce purposes, compared with nearly one-third of consumers globally.

Still, U.S. attitudes are changing, with the number of U.S. consumers who say they're "not comfortable" using their mobile phone to conduct financial transactions declining by 11% from 2008 to 2010.

Without a doubt, however, consumers do use mobile devices for more than just talking. For example, only about 5% of people used their mobile phones for instant messaging in 2008, but by 2010, that figure had grown to 30%, while 49% today say they've used Skype or similar services. From 2008 to 2010, American consumers' use of maps and directions on their mobile phones increased threefold, and their use of mobile social networking grew from 2% to 10%.

Perhaps not surprisingly, more U.S. consumers -- half today, versus one-third in 2008 -- are now willing to accept advertising and tracking of their personal information when using their PC to access online content or services, provided they receive free or discounted content or services in return. Only 28% of U.S. consumers, however, versus 42% globally, would accept advertising on their mobiles.

With new initiatives in the United States aimed at making medical records digital, KPMG queried consumers about how comfortable they would be accessing their personal medical device information on mobile devices by 2013 to 2015. Roughly 25% of consumers said they'd be comfortable doing that, but almost 40% said they would not. Almost the opposite was true, however, for consumers outside the United States.