Updated on 06/13/2023
For anyone doing business in the digital space, watching as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. Senate about the Cambridge Analytica scandal was uncomfortable. The normally affable Zuckerberg looked very flustered as he explained why user 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 contact information does an app collect? Is that data shared? If so – why is it shared and who is it shared with? What actually goes into privacy laws?
- What information is being collected
- Where the data is stored
- Who the data is shared with
- What data is used for
For instance, TikTok clearly lays out that the app collects profile information, contact information, and behavioral information in its privacy notice.
The remainder of the policy showcases how information is used and how the company works to keep all user information secure from harm or loss.
- Phone number
- Social Security number
- Credit card information
- Cookie information
- Search history
- Medial information
- Email address
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 usage data can range from generic (e.g., amount of screen time the user averages) to the very personal (e.g., identification, financial, or location 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 a mobile application 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.
There’s plenty of information that your app may collect, and it’s helpful to let your customers more. Why reveal this information to customers?
- 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.
1. Abide By Privacy Protection Laws
- Instead, various federal and state laws have provisions on user 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.
2. Recognize Third-Party Distributors 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.
What Does Apple Require?
What Does Google Require?
This is especially important for a company that will use a third-party service provider to collect data or display ads using the Google Analytics or Ads tools.
3. Develop a Trusting Audience Relationship
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 user data. Instead of following Facebook’s reactive crisis management approach, companies should take more proactive steps to maintain users’ trust.
How Do Mobile App Privacy Policies Build Trust?
This can make a user or potential downloader feel comfortable having the app on their mobile device, use the app more frequently, and even recommend the app to others.
4. Make (and Keep) More Money
How Privacy Policies Avoid Costly Lawsuits
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.
- 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.
Privacy Policies Are Must-Haves for Mobile Apps