The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has said developers should follow a “privacy by design” approach when building apps in order to address consumer concerns and comply with data protection laws.
“Compliance [with the Data Protection Act] is not a bolt-on included in the final phase of a product’s development, but is an aspect of an app’s design that should be considered at the start of the process,” Simon Rice, principal policy advisor for technology at the ICO, wrote in a blog post.
A recent ICO survey carried out by YouGov found that 62 per cent of people who have downloaded an app expressed concern about the way they use personal information. Privacy concerns caused 49 per cent of app users to decide not to download an app.
“This means that app developers are potentially losing over half of their market or risk pushing away nearly two-thirds of their hard won app users, typically because they’re either not being clear how personal information is being used, or because personal information is being used in a manner they disagree with,” Rice said.
“It’s clear then, that as well as fulfilling a legal requirement, it is in developers’ interests to make sure they are looking after people’s information correctly by complying with the Data Protection Act,” he added.
The ICO issued guidance for app developers to help them address consumer concerns by demonstrating they are looking after personal information correctly and comply with the Data Protection Act.
These include explanation of legal requirements around personal information (including obtaining lawful consent), appropriate measures to secure information, and advice on routine testing and maintenance.
The ICO guidelines also include developers providing an explanation of why information is being processed as opposed to just stating what information will be collected.
“These are issues that must be considered at the start of the development process, but once addressed will help developers in the UK comply with the Data Protection Act and have the best chance of achieving commercial success,” said Rice.
“Built in from an early stage, adopting a ‘privacy by design’ approach to app development will set you on the right track to addressing people’s concerns and achieving commercial success,” he added.
The guidelines have been published ahead of Christmas Day, the busiest day of the year in terms of app downloads.
On Christmas Day in 2012, 328 million apps were downloaded globally as people started to make use of new smartphones or tablets received as presents. The figure is likely to be higher in 2013.