Nearly every mobile application gathers, processes, and stores users’ personal information. That means that almost every app you build or use can become a target for hackers. Apart from that, human errors — both on the user’s side and developer’s side — often result in data leaks without bad actors’ involvement.
To protect users’ info and mitigate and manage risks, governments and large corporations issue legislations and policies for data protection. Service providers have to comply with them. Different industries also have separate regulations aiming to protect specific sensitive data: e.g., users’ financial and medical info.
Technologies move forward, but means of their protection often do not. With IoT-enabled mobile apps becoming popular across various domains, there’s even more data to process and protect. Case in point: according to Diversido, developers in the digital health industry, security is one of the largest bottlenecks for building continuous healthcare services.
Let’s talk about how to figure out what regulations your digital solution needs to comply with and what you should focus on to protect your future users and their privacy.
General Regulatory Issues App Developers Should Know
Developers must research the legal landscape of the industry before entering it and find out regulations for app development that must be met. Answering these three questions will help you to determine what standards to comply with — or where to start from to figure that out.
What your app offers, who and where are the consumers?
Regulations to which your app needs to comply will, first of all, depend on what products and services you intend to offer and who your end-users are. If it’s an app for children in America, you’ll have to comply with Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) provisions. If it’s a solution for people who live in South Africa, it’d have to be compliant with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI Act).
Are there any industry-specific legal requirements in your niche?
Some of your services may fall under industry-specific regulations. Software that works with patients’ personal info in the USA needs to comply with HIPAA, in Germany — with their patient data protection act called Patientendaten-Schutz-Gesetz (PDSG), in South Korea — with Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). If you want your app to be used as a digital therapeutic and reimbursed by insurers — that’s often the case for vendors who build software for hospitals and clinical organizations, — it must comply with FDA.
At the same time, if your app’s payment gateway accepts credit cards, it needs to comply with PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). That concerns not only e-commerce apps but every software or SaaS solution that asks for users’ financial data. Fintech companies, apart from that, need to implement Know Your Customer (KYC) standards to enhance risk management.
Will the product target the government or government-related institutions?
Lastly, if you target government organizations, you have to comply with the standards of protecting government information. In the USA, the respective legislation for service providers is called the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).
As you can see, there are a lot of regulations, restrictions, and safeguards to consider, to say the least. All of them are needed to protect the data your solution works with.
Besides industry or region-specific legislations, there are more broad regulations for user’s and customer’s data protection.
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). This official privacy law is mandatory for any business offering their services and products to customers that live in the European Union (EU).
PDPA (Personal Data Protection Act). It is a relatively new legal framework applying to apps that target citizens of Malaysia, Korea, India, Vietnam, and some other countries while offering services and products via mobile apps.
CPA (Customer Privacy Act). Most countries worldwide demand businesses and their solutions to comply with CPA. It protects consumers against unfair business practices and sub-quality products. It also defines the terms of refunds and deliveries.
Android and iOS guidelines. Developers that design applications for these stores must comply with these guidelines otherwise their apps won’t be published (or will be removed after repeated moderation). These guidelines, too, ensure a) user’s privacy is protected and their data is secure, b) the app’s data is used the way you’ve stated it’s used.
Explaining User Rights to Customers
As an example, here are some of the statements that need to be included in your solutions under GDPR:
- Cookie Management. In case your app collects cookies — for example, you use Google Analytics — you need to explain how you manage cookies, what cookies you collect, and why you’re collecting them in the Cookie Management policy. You also must obtain the user’s informed consent to use their cookies.
- Terms and Conditions. They’re also called Terms of Services (ToS) and they define how your services and products can be used. They must include users’ rights and regulations of withdrawal and cancellation cases.
- Valid Records of Consent. Your business must have a history of users’ consent gathered that proves that your app has the permission to manage their data.
- Records of Processing Activities. Similar to records of consent, the history of processing activities — records of what you are doing with data and who has access to it — helps to safeguard your data management.
GDPR also ensures that users have the right to access the data you have on them at any time and request to delete it or stop distributing it.
Why You Need to Comply with Legal Regulations
Data leaks may hurt your users, a lot. The “business” reason to ensure strict mobile app compliance is that it helps you avoid penalties for violations of the law. And if that’s not enough, there are also substantial benefits of adhering to regulations, having strong cybersecurity and transparent data management processes. It simplifies and accelerates your workflow and increases customer satisfaction.
For instance, in America, many people still can’t have instant access to their medical records — their data is fractured across different organizations. That’s a barrier to patients having their entire medical history on hand, which means that’s a barrier to getting proper medical care if it’s needed. Imagine the improvement they’d feel if they could get these records instantly.
When your business commits to making users’ data as easily accessible for them as possible and installs mechanisms to protect it, you can provide better, more comprehensive services.