For anyone doing business in the digital space, it was uncomfortable to watch as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. Senate about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The normally affable Zuckerberg looked very flustered as he explained why data from 87 million Facebook users was inappropriately obtained through his platform’s apps.
Ever since news of the scandal broke, app users have been increasingly concerned about their privacy. What kind of information does an app collect? Is that data shared? If so – why is it shared and who is it shared with?
- Adhering to the law
- Staying above board with third-party distributors
- Building trust with consumers
- Making more money (and keeping it)
The article will also provide guidance for businesses that need to develop a clear, concise, and effective app privacy policies.
Before the Facebook scandal, there were only a handful of app developers who were concerned about spelling out the users’ right to data privacy. After all, what data could be extracted from a simple app download?
As we learned during Mr. Zuckerberg’s uncomfortable testimony, there is quite a lot of data that can be gleaned from even the most innocuous app usage. This data can range from generic (e.g., amount of screen time the user averages) to the very personal (e.g., identification or financial data).
Additionally, anonymous data can also be classified as “personally identifiable information” if the data is used in connection with another type of data that can result in identifying a user.
For example, you may believe that your profile in an app allows you anonymity if you don’t use your real name. However, if the profile includes your your age, hometown, or other interests, someone can compare the profile information to another list that has similar information and reasonably deduce who you are.
Keeping Up With Privacy Protection Laws
- Instead, there are various federal and state laws that have provisions on data privacy, including:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the main regulator of data protection within the United States.
- European Union: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standardizes data protection law across all 28 EU countries and imposes strict new rules on controlling and processing personally identifiable information. GDPR replaced the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive and took effect May 25, 2018.
If you collect, store, or share personal data, then you need to understand that almost every state, country, and state-sponsored organization will require you to explain what you plan to do with that data.
Third-Party Distributors Now Require App Privacy Policies
Once Facebook demonstrated how a third-party platform could misuse consumer data, other third-party app platforms and distributors began taking steps to protect themselves from lawmakers and the courts.
This is especially important for a company that will use a third-party service to collect data or display ads using the Google Analytics or AdWords tools.
Keep the App Users Happy Through Trust
Facebook lost a lot of consumer confidence after the data scandal. Usage didn’t necessarily decrease, but the types of information changed drastically as people scurried to regain what little privacy remained.
In fact, much of the social media platform’s post-scandal marketing efforts centered on regaining consumer trust with the promise not to share data. Instead of following Facebook’s reactive crisis management approach, companies should take more proactive steps to maintain users’ trust.
This can make a user or potential downloader feel comfortable, use the app more frequently, and even recommend the app to others.
Privacy Policies Can Help You Make, and Keep, More Money
In today’s litigious society, one lawsuit can lead to many others, exponentially increasing the amount a company will pay in legal fees and settlement costs.
Help Is Available for App Developers
- TermsFeed: This platform lets a business create premium custom legal agreements based on specific criteria, such as if the app will collect email address, use geolocation, or sell products and/or services.
The Most Important Part of An App