For many of our customers, including those in government agencies, retailers and industry, capturing user data is an enticing component of the business case for app development. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should go ahead without considering why.

Privacy conscious companies (like Apple) are continuing to encourage and enforce transparency on what data is captured and how it is used. Guess what? Users don’t want their data kept, stored, or shared for any reason other than the delivery of the product or service they knowingly selected. These new measures from Apple will surely be welcomed.

Apple’s latest iOS update (14 in case you weren’t counting) introduces significant changes to its privacy features. Many preserve privacy, while others are about increasing transparency.

We take a look at some of the latest developments and how this could impact your app. (Please note, not all of these features are available at release and will be available in futures updates of iOS 14.)

Preserving Privacy

App tracking controls

Apps wanting to track your behaviour across other apps & websites will have to ask permission to do so via a pop-up.

Developers can decide when to ask (at launch, onboarding or in-context) but it must be before tracking starts.

A user declining prevents an app from accessing a device’s advertising identifier.

Users can turn off cross-app and cross-site tracking for apps entirely (system-wide) in their settings – meaning they won’t even see the request and will never have their behaviour tracked.

Approximate location

In addition to choosing to only give their location once, users can choose to share only their approximate location.  This would enable apps that don’t require your exact location to function, while providing better location privacy.

Clipboard protection

When an app accesses your clipboard, you get a notification. This stops apps accessing private information you might have in your clipboard. Already this feature has revealed some clipboard snooping going on in major apps.

Selective photo access

You can now give apps access to only specific photos rather than your entire photo library. This means you only share what you mean to share and an app can’t harvest your photos for their own opaque needs.

Recording indicator

An indicator will now be shown in the status bar if an app is using the microphone or camera, in the background or foreground. This prevents apps from secretly recording you, which has caught out a few major apps since iOS 14 was released in beta.

Increasing Transparency

App store privacy reports

Will be introduced in an update to iOS14. These will provide a health check of how an app uses your data, available to you before you choose to download.

What this could mean for...

A lot has been said about how this will affect Facebook’s Audience Network and other ads targeting businesses, but what about the rest of us?

Government

  • Have a particular spotlight on them in terms of data collection and use.
  • Have an opportunity to address community distrust head on and engage them in open conversation around this

Retail

  • Will be forced to think more deeply about what value means to their users
  • If they want to use tracking and data as a revenue stream etc, they will need to tie it to a feature that users can’t live without, a core part of their value proposition

Airlines

  • The real consumer benefit to airline apps often revolves around using their personal data, such as location, to assist and ease their journeys. Apps will need to clearly articulate the “ROI” to users sharing their data or risk the core value of their apps being undermined.

Health

  • Approximate locations will likely not be sufficient for fitness tracking applications (e.g. Strava) so adjustments to the user experience will need to be made, again the onus on the developer to justify the data collection and tie it to their critical user value.
  • Other health data collected will be reported in App Store Privacy Reports…

FinTech

  • Move from risk management to competitive advantage.

Creating a customer data policy based on needs and trust?

While Apple has pushed these changes on us and lifted the bar on privacy, those companies that embrace it have an opportunity to increase their customer trust, loyalty, and brand stickiness as they evaluate their data policy.

Data privacy and security is not just a risk management issue, but a source of competitive advantage. Apple is a clear example of this.

This means returning to your users, and your target market and undertaking discovery activities to understand the opportunities that will drive your desired outcome. Through interviews, surveys, analytics and other research techniques, you should seek to answer the following.

  • What are their underlying attitudes and mental models around data collection and storage?
  • What do they want to know about data usage and at what point in the engagement with your product or service?
  • What value do they derive from sharing their data with you and how do they articulate it?
  • What would they choose instead of your product/service and why with respect to those features that require data?

Then work with your team to experiment with solutions to these opportunities.

If you want to talk more about your data policy or how to prepare for these changes in particular you can contact us at Tigerspike.