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July 19, 2019

8 Great Privacy Practices When Developing Mobile Apps

Developing Mobile Apps

An average smartphone owner uses almost 40 apps every month. A majority of these apps request and collect data about the user and their device. Such data can include a user’s personal information, location, pictures, and videos. Certain apps can even gain access to phone call records and SMS messages stored on a smartphone. Aggressive data collection like this may pose a threat to a user’s privacy. Also, in the case of cyber attacks such as Man-in-the-Middle or other data breaches, app data can be exposed to cybercriminals. Cyber criminals can target android mobile apps with ineffective security protocols to steal confidential user information and leak such data online. Hence, app developers must focus on building apps that are secure and non-invasive.

1) Include a Privacy Policy

Developers should consider incorporating a privacy policy in the mobile app. This privacy policy can include details regarding how the application collects, shares, and uses sensitive data. Along with these details, the privacy policy can inform users about the developer, the type of data that will be collected, the parties who have access to sensitive data, and withdrawal of consent with an easily readable document. Also, a privacy policy needs to include details about third party services that display ads in an Android mobile app.

2) Access Necessary Data Only

Mobile apps collect large volumes of personal data such as email addresses, contact number, and geographical locations for certain features. However, such data collection may be a concern for many users. Hence, app developers can need to address this concern and collect data that is necessary for the functioning of their app. For instance, a fitness tracking app may require GPS data, connectivity, and some personal information. However, a fitness tracking app with gallery and camera access may be invasive for a user. Hence, only collecting data that is absolutely necessary for running an iOS or android mobile app can be a feasible and conservative approach to data collection.

3) Notify End-Users

Before accessing any data or sensors, iOS and android mobile apps must alert users and ask for access permissions. Mobile operating systems often ensure that apps need to ask users for permissions to use sensors and personal data and users can deny such permissions whenever they want, from the settings menu. Hence, mobile app developers need to program their app to ask for such permissions and develop a mechanism to allow users to opt-out. In this manner, developers can allow users to choose whether they wish to grant access for sensors and personal data and ensure that their privacy is not being violated.

4) Implement Two-Factor Authentication

In the collection 1 data breach, almost 773 million email addresses and passwords were leaked online. Such data breaches pose a major threat to user security and privacy. Hence, developers must incorporate a secure login mechanism along with traditional passwords. For this purpose, developers can use two-factor authentication to verify the identity of a user. Two-factor authentication mechanisms can ask a security question or use in-built biometric sensors like a fingerprint scanner. In this manner, iOS and android mobile apps can precisely verify the identity of every user and restrict access to unauthorized users.

5) Encrypt Sensitive Data

Another effective way of ensuring user privacy is encryption. With the help of encryption, developers can secure mobile databases and ensure data integrity. In case a cyber attacker gains illegal access to sensitive data, they would be unable to view or alter the accessed information. Also, app developers can implement end-to-end encryption to secure app data in transit. In this manner, app developers can secure confidential data and prevent cybercriminals from violating user privacy.

6) Restrict Data Access

Developers of iOS and Android mobile apps can protect sensitive data by restricting data access. By restricting data access, app developers can ensure that personal data cannot be viewed and altered by third-party services and APIs. However, users can be allowed to grant access to third-party APIs in case an API asks permission to access data for specific purposes. In this manner, app developers can ensure that data can be accessed with the consent of end-user.

7) Secure the Backend

Servers accessed by any android mobile app’s APIs must use appropriate security measures to prevent unauthorized access and protect confidential data. Every API should be verified to prevent eavesdropping on personal information that is shared between the client and server. For this purpose, app developers can use containerization, where they can create encrypted containers for storing sensitive data securely. Also, app developers can perform penetration testing and identify network vulnerabilities with the help of a network security specialist. Another effective security measure would be distributing data across multiple servers and encrypting these databases to avoid compromising crucial data during a cyber attack.

8) Identify Vulnerabilities

A necessary method of ensuring app data privacy is testing the app code for vulnerabilities. For this purpose, app developers can use penetration testing. Penetration testing can probe the app data and the network for potential vulnerabilities. Such vulnerabilities may include authentication issues, data security problems, and lack of session management. Also, app developers can test their app using emulators for various devices and mobile operating systems to understand how their app will perform on a wide range of smartphones.

Developers at mobile app development firms like Digital Fractal take every necessary measure to build secure iOS and Android mobile apps. However, users also need to take care of their own data by reading permissions required for every app they download. After reading the permissions, they can evaluate whether an app really needs every permission or it may be collecting data unnecessarily. In this manner, users can become responsible for their privacy and security and reduce instances of aggressive data collection.

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