Mobile devices capture an enormous amount of data about their owners, and mobile app developers can easily tap into that stream. However, if you don't need all that data, it makes sense not to grab it -- if only to avoid having to recode as regulators clamp down on the collection of personal data.
Mobile picture from Shutterstock
Forrester analyst Martha Bennett notes that apps can collect personal data for several reasons aside from actually using that data directly in the app. It might be to sell that on to a third party. It might be because developers are reusing components from other apps without realising what data is collected. She also notes that some developers adopt a just-in-case mentality:
With the best of intentions, developers may decide to capture information just because they can, in case it’s of use at some point later -- even if nobody has thought about what kind of future use case or functionality might leverage this data.
Whatever the motivation, those decisions can backfire if the apps breach local privacy laws, and they can damage the reputation of the developer. The lesson?
I strongly encourage all app developers to follow mobile app privacy guidelines voluntarily . . . True, some of the principles may appear to be in conflict with the organization’s immediate commercial goals. But I’d argue that it’s better to figure out a consensual, transparent way of addressing this type of data capture than to risk a regulatory clamp-down.
Check out Bennett's full post for pointers to some useful resources on developing privacy-aware apps.