21st November 2018
As useful (and, indeed, necessary) as mobile apps are for businesses these days looking to promote customer retention and enjoy insightful analytics based on user behaviour, you’d better just have a quick check to see what data is being shared and how… or you could find yourself in a spot of bother later down the line.
New research from the University of Oxford, reported on by the Financial Times, has suggested that mobile app data harvesting and sharing is now out of control, with almost 90 per cent of the free apps on the Google Play store sharing data with Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
A lot of these free apps do track behaviour across numerous digital services, which enables brands to put together detailed people profiles, including age, gender, location and so on, the BBC reports.
Some 43 per cent of apps shared information with Facebook, while others shared it with the likes of Verizon, Twitter, Microsoft and Amazon companies.
Privacy International campaigner Frederike Kaltheuner explained that it’s actually impossible for the average person to really know and understand how their personal information is being used and how they can opt out of this.
She went on to say: “Companies track people… and they use this data to profile and then target people in ways that most of us would find intrusive and very surprising … This is no longer about the need to collect data to show ‘relevant ads’ – this is about profit maximisation at the expense of people’s fundamental rights.”
And in the days of GDPR, brands really do have to be particularly careful with how they use personal data collected on their customers – otherwise they could see themselves hit with a huge career-ending fine and serious damage done to their reputation.
That’s not to say that you can’t prioritise mobile app development (which bespoke software company Smashed Crab can certainly help with). When designing new apps, you now need to consider user privacy from the outset and in order to comply with Article 23 the app you devise must only hold user data that is absolutely necessary.
You also now have to receive explicit user consent in order to collect this information in the first place so perhaps think about setting up an opt-in screen that pops up immediately when the app is opened. Box ticked!
But don’t forget that you also need to make it as easy as possible for people to opt out as well, so include this when designing the app at the beginning and devise a dedicated page where people can choose to leave with ease or ask for any and all data to be removed.
For external communications, make sure your mobile app uses either HTTPS or SSL as this will help with data encryption and protect you against potential data breaches.