Mobile Privacy Consumer App

By Travis Pinnick
User Experience Designer | TRUSTe

TRUSTe is in the process of designing a consumer app that addresses mobile privacy issues. The current app design consists of 3 sections:

  • App Permissions (reflects the current permissions of apps on the user’s device)
  • App Activity (allows the user to see what data calls their apps are making and to whom)
  • Ad Preferences (a mobile version of our Trusted Ads Preference Manager)

The app will probably initially be Android only, as iOS doesn’t allow access to the permission and data transmission information.

Interactive Demo »

Initial Design and Testing

We conducted a small user test of the initial design to assess overall messaging and usability, as well as the perceived usefulness of the app content. Overall users liked the app, and no one had any trouble with the overall purpose or usability of the app.

App Permissions

Most of the users initially deemed the App Permissions section the most valuable (though a couple ended up preferring the App Activity section once they understood its function). Because the App Permissions section shows information that can already be accessed in Android OS settings (though in a different format), I was surprised by it’s perceived value. Maybe this is because consumers like to have similar related functionality in a single app.

App Activity

Users seemed to have the most confusion with the App Activity section (called ‘App History’ during the user test – other names considered were “Data History” and “Data Access”). None of the users was able to articulate what they expected this section to do until after they had seen it, so finding a title that conveys the appropriate meaning to users will be very important. Users were split on their perceived value of this section; more technical users were interested in who their apps were contacting from a privacy perspective, while less technical users were interested in the frequency with which their apps were using data from a resource conservation perspective.

Ad Preferences

As with similar tests of our desktop preference manager, most users had confusion around what it means to set an ad preference. This is probably to be expected, since ‘opting-out’ in the desktop world generally means opting-out of targeting only, and the mobile equivalent has yet to be defined (TRUSTe’s mobile preference management system currently stores a user’s preference for an ad provider to access, but the industry is still debating how the preference will be interpreted).


The purpose of creating a consumer app should be consumer engagement, and it seems evident from the testing that consumers are responding well to this “all in one” multi-component privacy app idea. This design is still a work in progress, and feedback is welcome.