Pew: 50 Percent Have Cleared Smartphone Search History

There’s a cat and mouse game going on between developers, publishers and mobile users. The former group is often trying to “connect the dots” and gather as much data and information on user behavior and, in some cases, individual activity as possible. By contrast, mobile phone owners (especially smartphone owners) are often trying to thwart or very selectively allow that data collection.

The Pew Internet Project just released survey data revealing that mobile users may be a great deal more sensitive to privacy issues than most developers and publishers think. The survey was conducted in March and April of this year by telephone (landline and mobile) and involved 2,254 US adults.

What Pew found was that 57 percent of app users “have either uninstalled an app over concerns about having to share their personal information, or declined to install an app in the first place for similar reasons.” That breaks down as follows:

  • 54 percent of app users have decided to not install a cell phone app when they discovered how much personal information they would need to share in order to use it
  • 30 percent of app users have uninstalled an app that was already on their cell phone because they learned it was collecting personal information that they didn’t wish to share

Pew also found that among smartphone owners, 50 percent reported clearing search and/or browsing histories. In addition, 30 percent of smartphone owners have disabled location tracking. Fewer feature phone owners do such things typically because either these capabilities are used less or conventional phone owners may be less aware of them.

Beyond tracking and data collection, one of the additional reasons for being concerned about privacy is the possibility of a lost or stolen phone. More than 30 percent of smartphone owners reported that their phones had been lost or stolen at one time.

The following is a more detailed demographic breakdown of the data presented above:

Surveys have consistently revealed that users are concerned about mobile privacy and want more control over how much of their data (especially location) are revealed to third parties.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Legal: Privacy | Search Engines: Maps & Local Search Engines | Search Engines: Mobile Search Engines | Stats | Stats: Search Behavior | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Steve Masters

    There is one very important statistic not discussed in your article, Greg, and one that I believe is perhaps the real explanation for people clearing their search history. Go back and ask people how many of them use Google on their phone to search for porn. Then ask how many of them clear their history and their search history to prevent snooping partners knowing what they are up to.

  • Gunnar Lauhöfer

    Completely agree with Steve. The main reason for deleting your history on mobile devices is simply that the mobile browsers and applications do not offer a privacy mode, yet.

  • Carmen Johnson


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