6 Things to Know about Data Protection in Mobile Applications

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Over the last decade, there has been an explosive increase in the number of mobile application users worldwide – and this number will keep increasing. In 2021, consumers downloaded 230 billion mobile apps to their connected devices, up by more than 63 percent from 140.7 billion app downloads in 2016. 

For this reason, businesses are now using mobile applications to expand their companies’ reach. In addition, they monetize the applications and use them to get closer to their consumers. 

However, for mobile apps to function properly, most require consumers to submit personal information. Such data can include contact information, location, photos, etc. But all these pieces of information are vulnerable to data breaches, digital snoops, and regular theft.

Hence, it is crucial that mobile app developers make data protection a priority while designing their applications. Consumers want to feel safe while navigating your application. And knowing that you prioritize data privacy will give them this peace of mind. 

This article will discuss some key things you need to know about data protection in mobile applications. 

What is GDPR?

The EU General Data Protection Regulation is a privacy law that fundamentally changed the world of consumer data protection. It mandated organizations to enforce massive changes to their data protection and privacy practices to comply or face potentially massive fines. 

The GDPR was first adopted in 2016. However, companies that would be affected by this new privacy law were given the grace of 2 years to revamp whatever policies necessary to come into compliance. It then officially went into effect in May 2018. 

You can view the GDPR as a legal framework primarily regulating the collection and processing of personal data collected from individuals who live within the European Union. Furthermore, the GDPR applies regardless of where the mobile application is developed – as long as it serves EU residents. 

The GDPR gives consumers control over their personal data by holding companies responsible for how they handle and treat this information.

‘Personal data’ is the core of the GDPR. So, the GDPR only applies when the information to be processed is personal data. Furthermore, the term is defined in Art. 4 (1) of the GDPR as any information related to an identified or identifiable person.

The GDPR grants specific rights to users to increase transparency and give them control over the data they submit to mobile applications and how it’s used. They include:

  • The right to be informed that you’ve collected and used personal data
  • The right to access personal data and how it’s processed
  • The right to rectify inaccurate or incomplete personal data 
  • The right to erase data
  • The right to restrict the processing of personal data
  • The right to data portability

The GDPR and other privacy laws (CCPA, Cookie law, etc.) are very important to mobile app developers. This is because it saves you from outrageous fines and legal troubles while effectively protecting your client’s personal data. 

6 tips for data protection in mobile applications

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As a mobile app developer, you must understand how to obtain, transfer, store, and handle your end user’s data. Also, you must understand exactly how to ensure data security for your users and what you can do to improve this in order to have a GDPR-compliant mobile app

The following are data protection tips to know for better security of your consumer’s data and GDPR compliance. 

  1. GDPR DPIA compliance

A Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) is a risk assessment audit that is systematically designed to assist organizations and mobile app publishers in identifying, analyzing, and reducing the privacy risks that come with collecting, processing, using, storing, and sharing user data. The DPIA is key to keeping your mobile app GDPR compliant. Read this Osano’s guide to DPIA for more insight. 

However, this isn’t the only benefit of the DPIA. Guidance from data protection authorities (DPAs) states that you should conduct a DPIA for any data processing that is likely to result in high risks to individuals. So, if your mobile application will collect users’ personal data, it may fall under this category. 

Conducting a DPIA will alert you to the dangers to data protection associated with a project (new application). Furthermore, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about the acceptability of data protection risks and communicate effectively with the affected individuals.

  1. Explicitly seek user consent

As a mobile developer, you must request users to provide their consent to collect, use, store, and transfer their personal data. Also, the user must clearly understand personal data collection and the terms and conditions for its usage. 

Explicit Consent can be granted easily through an opt-in screen when your app launches. Getting consent from your users shouldn’t be difficult since they willingly downloaded the application. However, you must still give them the option of providing consent. Similarly, the users must also be able to withdraw consent at any time. 

  1. Transparency through privacy policy 

One of the most important aspects of GDPR is how the data you collect is used. Users have the right to know which of their personal data are collected, used, transferred, or otherwise processed and to what extent the personal data is being or will be processed. You can achieve this by providing a clear and understandable privacy policy for your mobile application. 

Privacy policies do not just benefit your app users. Instead, they’re also a requirement for App stores that host your application. Also, you will be required to disclose your source of data collection and processing if you use a third-party solution.

  1. Privacy by design 

According to Article 23 of the GDPR, privacy by design is now a legal requirement. However, the concept existed even before the emergence of the GDPR. Privacy by design is a development concept that states that you must build the technical and organizational measures necessary to protect consumer data into the business applications and processes that will handle that data. 

Simply put, user privacy must be considered before the commencement of application design, not as an afterthought. The Privacy by Design concept aims to minimize data collection and requires the user’s permission for data processing.

  1. Source code encryption 
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It is not uncommon for mobile malware to create bugs and vulnerabilities within a mobile application’s design and source code. Recent updates show that malicious code infects more than 12 million mobile devices at any given time.  The most popular way cybercriminals do this is by cloning popular apps and publishing them.

Therefore, it’s essential for mobile app developers to encrypt their source code. JavaScript, for example, is quite simple to read, and its minification and obfuscation can make it more difficult to read and interpret. But encrypting it will ensure that the source code is inaccessible to an outside party

  1. Notify users of a data breach

Finally, there’s a 72-hour time limit to notify users and a local data protection authority (DPA) of a data breach that could harm the user’s personal data. To make this a reality, you must lay down a data breach management response/procedure in place. In addition, you must also test and update this procedure regularly. 


Cybercriminals and other bad actors are constantly devising new ways to steal sensitive information from mobile applications. Therefore, as a developer, owner, or publisher, it is crucial that you make data protection a priority. Not just for compliance sake or to avoid legal troubles but also because users trust you to protect their personal data. 

Author Bio:

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Lydia Iseh is a writer with years of experience in writing SEO content that provides value to the reader. As someone who believes in the power of SEO to transform businesses, she enjoys being part of the process that helps websites rank high on search engines.