The OK is Not Enough: Large Scale Study of Consent Dialogs in Smartphone Applications


Conference / Medium


Martin Johns Benjamin Altpeter Simon Koch

Research Hub

Research Hub C: Sichere Systeme

Research Challenges

RC 8: Security with Untrusted Components


Mobile applications leaking personal information is a well established observation pre and post GDPR. The legal requirements for personal data collection in the context of tracking are specified by GDPR and the common understanding is, that tracking must be based on proper consent. Studies of the consent dialogs on websites revealed severe issues including dark patterns. However, the mobile space is currently underexplored with initial observations pointing towards a similar state of affairs. To address this research gap we analyze a subset of possible consent dialogs, namely privacy consent dialogs, in 3006 Android and 1773 iOS applications. We show that 22.3% of all apps have any form of dialog with only 11.9% giving the user some form of actionable choice, e.g., at least an accept button. However, this choice is limited as a large proportion of all such dialogs employ some form of dark pattern coercing the user to consent.


Program Analysis