11 September 2014

As much as I love technology, I’m the first to admit that it can sometimes be a bit of a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to user privacy. Yesterday, I read that the Global Privacy Enforcement Network had carried out research on the ways that apps collect and use our private data. It’s safe to say that the results were fairly disappointing, as the study found that 85% of the apps they looked at weren’t making it clear what data they were accessing and why.

protect_privacyWhilst data analytics certainly has a place in marketing, helping companies to understand their customers’ needs and habits, I think people do abuse it. I’m willing to bet that most people reading this have been bombarded with spam adverts at some point, yet it’s so important that developers and businesses alike remember how important it is to treat your customer base as your greatest asset. That includes respecting their privacy.

To put it another way, if you knocked on your neighbour’s door four times a day asking to borrow various things and constantly asking questions, it would get annoying. They’d probably close the curtains and pretend not to be in! It’s the same with spam advertising. If an app doesn’t make it clear what types of data they’re taking from us and for what purpose, it’s probably best to steer clear. Will they sell that data to a third-party and, if an app has a load of ads running on it, does that mean they too will have access to it? These are things we need to know.

In my opinion, it’s the responsibility of app developers to make sure that they don’t abuse their users’ trust by requesting access to an excessive amount of data. Most importantly, it’s their responsibility to make their privacy policy absolutely clear. If they’re intentionally making this information difficult to access, that shows disrespect for their users, who ultimately make their application a success or not. From a user perspective, it’s the old adage of ‘buyer beware’.

Apps can be such great tools for education, entertainment and communication, but with our privacy at stake, we need to be absolutely sure of what we’re signing up for.


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