Mobile App Developers: Stop Capturing Unnecessary Data Before Regulators Stop You

The findings presented in an article by German magazine Computerwoche published on Feb 11, 2014, are a forceful reminder that messages about excessive data capture via mobile apps seem to have gone unheeded so far.  As reported, tests by TÜV Trust IT established that “almost one in two mobile apps suck up data unnecessarily”.

What’s “unnecessary” of course depends on your viewpoint: it may seem unnecessary to me if my mobile email app captures my location; the provider of the app, on the other hand, could be capturing the information to provide me with a better service and/or to make money from selling such data to a third party. The trouble is that I don’t know, and I don’t have a choice if I want to use the app. From a consumer perspective, this is not a satisfactory situation; I’d even go as far as calling it unacceptable. Not that it matters what I feel; but privacy advocates and regulators are increasingly taking notice. Unless app providers take voluntary measures, they may see their data capture habits curtailed by regulation to a greater degree than would otherwise be the case.

Let’s step back a moment and consider why so many mobile apps capture more data than is strictly speaking necessary for the functioning of the app:

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Computers, Privacy & Data Protection Conference 2014: Embracing User Privacy As A Competitive Advantage

By Enza Iannopollo and Dan Bieler

The recent Computers, Privacy & Data Protection Conference (CPDP) showcased a series of innovative projects that are based on big data. Big data is one of the four imperatives that shape the age of the customer — one of Forrester’s main focus areas — and the changing regulatory framework of data protection in Europe has big implications for big data initiatives.

Central to data protection is the existing EU Data Protection Directive, which legislators have been trying to update for years to reflect the changing online realities. The proposed Data Protection Regulation focuses on a redefinition of the concept of “consent.” User consent now has to be freely given, specific, informed, and explicit.

This new definition forces businesses to be more transparent about how they gather, use, disclose, and manage customer data in the form of the principles of privacy notice and purpose limitation. Complying with these new privacy principles is a challenge in the age of the customer, as privacy regulation affects:

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