The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, known as GDPR for short, went into effect on May 25th 2018. Since then, many businesses have either successfully met the guidelines necessary whilst others are still not compliant and face some hefty penalties and fines.

This set of data protection laws is designed to provide more control over how customers in the EU share their data. Users now have a right to see what data is being held by the company. They can also request companies to delete their data if necessary. 

Non-compliance with GDPR can attract some eye-watering fines, so it’s important to be aware of the guidelines. As an app developer, it’s critical to be aware of this law when building an app. In this article, we’ll explain a little more about what GDPR is and the five things app developers should be aware of in relation to this data protection law.

What is GDPR?

GDPR is one of the toughest privacy and security laws in the world. For many organizations and individuals who store and manage the data of customers, it was an uphill struggle to achieve compliance. With the little time that was offered, businesses with big databases would need to spend a lot of money and resources to meet the guidance and deadline set.

Some of the rules outlined by GDPR are as follows:

1. Data Protection

In accordance with GDPR, there are several data protection rules that a business must follow. These include data minimization, where you should only be collecting and processing as little data as necessary.

Storage limitations whereby a business must only keep hold of the data for so long. Accountability is also part of the law in which the data controller must be able to demonstrate compliance across the entirety of the business.

2. Data Security

Data security is a big one as there are many dangers of cyber theft out there and breaches that have occurred through lack of security. Malware attacks have been on the rise in the last decade, from 12.4 million in 2009 to 812.67 million in 2018.

With GDPR, you must be doing everything in your effort to keep data as secure as possible. That means technical measures from training your employees to two-factor authentication and encryption.

If a data breach occurs, you have 72 hours to tell the data subjects or face penalties.

3. Consent

Strict new rules are in place now with the law about what constitutes consent from a data subject. Consent must be given freely, specific, informed, and unambiguous. Those requests for consent must be clearly distinguishable and detail what exactly the data is being used for.

Children under 13 can only give consent with permission from parents, and the customer has every right to ask for data held to be destroyed on request.

With that all in mind, what does that mean for app developers when building an app in 2022?

Five Things App developers Should Know About GDPR

It’s good to always be aware of what privacy laws are in place when you’re creating an app. Whether that’s adding in design features for user consent to ensuring your app is properly secure from any potential data breaches. Here are five things app developers should know about GDPR. Read more on future technology trends to follow.

1. Ensure User Consent is Enabled and Collected

For almost every business, data collection is essential. It can help you drive further sales whilst learning more about your customer’s needs and wants.

As an app developer, it’s critical that you’re enabling a user consent pop-up or that you have it as part of the user’s sign-up process. This can be done easily at the beginning of the user’s experience and, therefore, won’t disrupt their interactions further down the line.
Ensure User Consent is Enabled and Collected

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For websites, user consent forms will usually appear when a user first lands on the website. You want to make the user consent section as clear as possible. Conducting A/B testing might also be helpful to check that this feature works for those users who are engaging with the app.

2. Detail Why the Data is Being Obtained

Why is the data that you’re asking for being obtained in the first place? How is the data stored, and how will it be used going forward? These are all questions that should be posed when it comes to adding detail to your user consent form or tick-box. 

Be clear and concise about what the data is used for and that you’re not overcomplicating the process too much. There are plenty of apps that you can look at to see what they mention before a user ticks or un-ticks a box.

The last thing you want to do is confuse your users or make it seem like you’re deceiving them in some way. Remember to follow the guidelines set out by GDPR so that you have covered everything in terms of data usage. It’s better to overcompensate than to not do enough. After all, you want to avoid those fines!

3. Don’t Forget Privacy Rights in the Design Stage.

When designing the app, it’s important to factor in privacy rights for the user. These privacy controls should be accessible to the user in order to control what they want the app to access and what should be avoided.

Just like the GDPR rules in place, data minimization is important and can be helpful for your business in retaining as little confidential information as possible. The user should be freely able to enable or disable data monitoring, and this is the responsibility of the app developer to do.

By adding more control and versatility for the user, it’s going to offer them a more satisfactory experience on the whole. Most will put these privacy rights in the account section of the app, which might typically be referred to as the settings. 

Make sure it’s easily accessible and not in some undisclosed location that’s hard to find.

4. Make It Possible for Users to Remove Themselves From the Database.

Just like the privacy controls being easily accessible, you also want to make it possible for users to remove themselves from the database. 

This is important because there’s nothing more infuriating for a user to receive notifications or correspondence from a business that they’ve asked several times to remove their data from.

For GDPR, this is one that is a big no-no. So as an app developer, it’s important to put in a function that allows a user to easily ask for removal from the database. This should be an immediate removal and not one that is delayed or ignored completely.
Make It Possible for Users to Remove Themselves From the Database.

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The data that should be deleted can be anything from a history of messages, service requests, cookies, location, and any other data that has been collected and belongs to the consumer.

This feature might be in their account settings, for example, so that it’s easily located.

5. Assess Data Protection and Have Data Breach Protocols in Place

Finally, an app developer should be carefully assessing the data protection that’s been put in place and have data breach protocols in place.

Mobile app developers should be documenting how and why user data is being collected and processed. This documentation should be created in the event that it has to be presented to regulators of GDPR upon request.

If data breaches occur, then the 72-hour period in which the customers must be notified is one that will need to be actioned automatically. There should be systems in place that automate the distribution of emails or notifications to make the user aware of said breach.

App developers must be active in assessing the security of the data and how this can be improved on a regular basis.

Required Tools for Compliance

There are plenty of tools for app development and for those who are trying to achieve more in the way of GDPR compliance. A few suggestions are below:

1. Osano for Privacy Policies and Consent Management

Osano is a great platform for helping provide the very latest in up-to-date privacy policies and those that need assistance with consent management. 

2. GDPR Compliance Checklist to Use as a Handy Guide

The GDPR Checklist is a useful tool for ensuring compliance from start to finish. It can be used as a helpful guide and reference point for when you’re checking that every aspect of the app is GDPR compliant.

3. Netwrix Auditor

If there’s uncertainty about whether or not the app is completely GDPR compliant, then Netwrix Auditor is a great tool for helping perform risk assessments to help app developers and IT staff locate vulnerabilities in their systems.
Netwrix Auditor

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Stay Clued Up With GDPR and Other Privacy Acts

GDPR is only the beginning of a domino effect that the world is seeing in relation to data privacy. There are likely more countries that will be introducing their own policies in order to clamp down on data breaches and those organizations using consumer data for the wrong reasons.

Staying up-to-date with any changes and introductions to new privacy acts will help your apps remain compliant for all users, regardless of their location.

Author Bio: Natalie Redman (LinkedIn)
Natalie Author BioFreelance writer for many clients across multiple industries. Natalie has two years of copywriting experience. Natalie has a wide range of experience in copywriting for web pages for businesses across many industries. She’s also the owner of two blog websites and a Youtube content creator.