Data privacy has become an integral part of many company’s core business strategies. And if it isn’t, it should be. From financial institutions to shopping centers, ensuring that the data collected is done so transparently is paramount. And the same goes for business apps.
For a long time, the rapid development of apps neglected some of the privacy concerns held by users. However, with the introduction of sweeping data protection regulations, data privacy became more than a buzzword.
Now Apple, one of the big two app platforms, has introduced Apple Privacy Reports. This means that any iPhone user can see how apps and websites use their data. Even when operating within the law, some apps will use data to a degree that concerns users. This article will run through the type of apps this new development will affect. It will address how companies might manage any privacy issues and what the announcement means in a wider context.
What Does the App Privacy Report Enable?
iOS 15.2 is the latest software update for Apple’s iPhone. The update came with a range of improvements and additions, but the most significant is the new App Privacy Report procedure.
iPhone users can now choose to turn on the function to see information about the frequency that installed apps access personal data through, among other means, user location, contacts, the device’s camera, and microphone.
The new function also enables users to view network activity. With this, it’s possible to see the domains that an app has contacted and consequently shared user data with.
Which Apps are Affected?
The new privacy settings affect every app installed on a user’s device, but specific industries will be more affected than others. At the top of the list are social media apps like Facebook and Instagram.
Social media platforms rely on consumer data to create revenue. However, once users realize how much their data is accessed and distributed, there could be a backlash.
Beyond social media, other prominent apps that collect significant data points include Amazon, Google, and PayPal. Essentially, larger organizations that can make the most revenue from big data collection are likely to be the most affected.
So, what could this backlash look like? While the largest apps face the biggest potential losses and user discontent, smaller, alternative apps could see an opportunity emerge.
For example, Gmail is a serious data consumer, but smaller email services like Spike collect far less. Beyond this, users could look to smaller online shopping services like Etsy instead of Amazon. In the financial sector, PayPal, one of the biggest data consumers, could be replaced by a smaller organization like MoneyGram.
What Will the Response Be?
At this early stage, it’s difficult to predict how app developers will respond to the new developments. However, there are two initial options. The first is to become more transparent with customers, and the second is to adapt their privacy policies.
At the very least, the apps that harvest the most data will need to become far more transparent with their processes. They will need to present, clearly and comprehensively, the data they collect and explain why they do it. The aim will be to present a case that connects data collection with increased service levels.
The hope is that users will accept that they must surrender data privacy to use certain services when presented with the facts. Of course, there is a danger that once users know the extent of the data they sacrifice, they may neglect to use the app altogether.
The other option is to update company data policies and change the user data collection methods. This move could represent a major overhaul for many large organizations that fundamentally alters their business models.
When a company relies on data collection, entirely overhauling the process is impractical and potentially very damaging, financially. Instead, changing the methods of collecting this information might be more achievable. For example, app developers could enable users to choose the methods by which data is collected and provide an option to refuse data sharing with external domains.
How Does This Correlate With Global Data Privacy Trends?
Apple’s latest developments in the privacy field come on the back of an earlier update regarding Mail Privacy Protection. This function made it possible for users to block their IP addresses, making them more secure but also limiting the information that B2B marketers could collect.
Like many organizations, Apple publicly displays its commitment to data privacy in a climate where regulatory compliance is mandatory. In recent years, the stakes have risen, with huge fines dissuading companies from breaking the law.
However, when powerful companies like Apple go above and beyond, they set the tone for future discussions on the topic and make it very difficult for companies to operate on their platforms without toeing the line. In these circumstances, even when a company does operate within the law, they are still vulnerable to criticism.
There must be a more unified response to global privacy commitments moving forward. Even when a company, such as Google or Meta, relies on data to drive ad sales, they must adapt to fit consumers’ expectations. Instead of companies like Apple forcing the hand of other tech giants, they should be working together to ensure the public is aware and, more importantly, comfortable with the extent to which companies use their data.