Privacy and Security: Protecting User Data in Consumer Apps

Ensure the privacy and security of consumer apps. Learn how to protect user data, comply with regulations, and build trust with robust measures.

Boitumelo Mosia
June 25, 2023
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Every day, billions of people around the world use the Internet to exchange ideas, transmit financial transactions, and stay in touch with family, friends, and colleagues. Through this global network, users send and store personal medical data, business communications, and even confidential conversations. However, for the Internet to continue to thrive, users must continue to be confident that their personal information is secure and their privacy is protected. One of the many challenges facing consumer apps today.

Data Privacy and Protection

Out of the 55 states on the African continent, only 28 countries have a data protection law, of which 15 have set up data protection authorities (DPAs) to enforce the law. Only 66% of the nations of the world safeguard people’s data and privacy, despite an 11% increase in the adoption of data protection and privacy legislation in the period 2015-2020, according to new UNCTAD data. Results of a new survey on global cyber law adoption show that the share is even lower among the least developed countries, at just 43%. Globally, 81% of countries have an e-transaction law. Europe has the highest share (98%), followed by the Americas (91%). The share is lowest in Africa (61%). In general, the least developed countries are trailing behind. The share with relevant laws is particularly weak for consumer protection (40%).

As government oversight continues to intensify to keep up with the pace of innovation, software developers must consider privacy first, not only to comply with it but also to deliver an experience that will stand up to evolving demands over the years. For consumer apps, privacy relies on factors such as data minimisation, access control, and consent. Developers should only collect information critical to their primary functionality. As for users, they should be able to easily understand all the data collected and set clear permissions on whether and how the data is shared. Additionally, an option should be provided for an easy way to update your settings or delete your account. Transparency creates trust through autonomous choices and controls. 

Security Threats

According to the research, almost 50% of organisations’ employees download one or more malicious applications. Additionally, roughly 40% of mobile apps remain susceptible to cyberattacks. For this reason, users are more afraid of using a new application and cannot trust it easily. In particular, NTIA’s analysis of data shows that Americans are increasingly concerned about online security and privacy at a time when data breaches, cybersecurity incidents, and controversies over the privacy of online services have become more prominent. And it’s understandable given the data breaches that have occurred at organisations over the years. In two breaches at one large corporation, more than 3.5 billion records were made public. Breaches at several others exposed hundreds of millions of records. Security threats come from many different sources, like system vulnerabilities, malware, phishing, and unauthorised access. Mobile app security looks to mitigate these exact scenarios by protecting the application from external risks by incorporating standard security protocols.

App Development Best Practices For Security

Bugs can arise from lackadaisical coding mistakes or testing oversights, which makes mobile apps susceptible to hacker exploitation. Therefore, using data encryption while creating a mobile app is the best solution. There are two types of encryption, namely data and code encryption. With code encryption, the text is changed into a numerical code series, while data encryption changes the data into a form that is unreadable to hackers.

Another best practice to keep user data safe is error-free coding. Approximately 82% of the vulnerabilities in mobile applications are caused by lackluster coding practices. It demonstrates that the code requires high security, and mobile app developers should ensure it is 100% error-free before debugging. Understanding its build is one of the best techniques to safeguard the application or software. Hiring dedicated software developers to test the application from different perspectives can ensure the code is safe.

High-level encryption is another must when developing mobile apps. Developers can create an application that reminds users to periodically change their passwords. Add features like alphanumeric passwords as well. This increases security and adds a layered authentication procedure. Another efficient technique to safeguard the app is OTP (one-time password).  

Other security measures include conducting frequent security tests to ensure that the app is still secure. For software and app developers, verifying the third parties they use when building the application is paramount for security reasons. Hence, they need to test these sources before incorporating them into the app. Lastly, they can insert secure APIs to ensure client data is protected by a strong gateway or server.

Regulation Compliance

To comply with regulations such as the GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, and others, one must assess whether the law applies based on where the developers and users are located and the type of data involved. Software developers must identify specific requirements related to data collection, consent, retention limits, and incident reporting and implement necessary changes prior to conducting an audit. But legal compliance is only half the battle, as it can be seen as much as a prohibitor as it is a protector.

In Conclusion 

With data insights enabling personalisation, AI, and predictive technologies at scale, software developers must seriously weigh impacts and mitigate risks when building with privacy as more than an afterthought. In our evolving world where data flows freely, each choice by developers creating the daily tools we all rely upon shapes the possibility for good or bad through systems that are growing ever more powerful but not yet wise.

As seen on FOX, Digital journal, NCN, Market Watch, Bezinga and more