“Welcome to Dallas! Special Shopping offers only for you. Check it now”, read a pop-up message on my smartphone screen as soon as I was out of the Dallas airport. I never asked for it though. Being a geek, I always spend my time on researching about apps and their functions. I knew that I have not installed any app that provided me with these functions. I quickly checked in to see what really happened. To my surprise it was a game which took the GPS data. Why would a game that needs no connection to the Internet take my GPS data? How would it help someone make the game better? I reviewed the privacy guidelines issued by the company only to find that the developer has given me a disclaimer but not a choice. His statement was quite clear, if you do not give access to this data, you need not use my game. ‘Thank you so much’ I said to myself and uninstalled the game.
While mobile apps have created a whole new industry and enabled tremendous convenience to the user, it has also raised serious concerns about her privacy. Can privacy be compromised for convenience? Many a times, it has been found out that the app developers themselves do not know what data their app is collecting due to deployment of some third party SDK (such as those from analytics providers/ advertising networks) in the app. Although third party SDKs are easy plug-n-play solutions reducing efforts and costs in app development, the unintended data collection is causing trouble to some developers. With governmental regulation on user privacy getting stricter, the app developers are clearly finding themselves increasingly vulnerable to breaching laws and potential law-suites.
Governments, across the globe, have recognized the importance of privacy of their citizens and are trying to implement stringent rules to guide them. While app developers and publishers are resisting these regulations, they are also failing to realize that customer privacy is at risk and collecting the data without informing her will only be a deathblow to their business.
App developers need data from the user to provide her with more relevant services but ethics must be followed and the user must be informed about it. There are certain guidelines that app developers are expected to follow though they are not legally enforceable. Some of the guidelines are:
1) Be completely transparent about how you are using or transmitting user data.
2) Don’t access more data than you need.
3) Give your users control over uses of data usage that they might not expect.
5) Share new data usage policies before implementing them.
6) Be clear and specific in the disclosures.
7) Delete old data
8) Encrypt data in transit when authenticating users and transferring personal information.
9) Provide users with appropriate communication channels to clear their concerns.
10) Comply with the law of the land.
Keeping the above mentioned considerations while developing an app will not only help developers address privacy concerns but also help them earn respect and trust of their customers. As the saying goes, “Always think of how can you help your customer rather than thinking of ‘How to sell him something?”. The customer will surely appreciate your honesty.