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Apps - what you need to know Tim Henwood
9 July 2014

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Over the past couple of weeks we’ve used our blog to look at the importance of checking an app out before you download it and paying attention to the information the app can access on your phone.

This week we released a guide for app developers. If you’re making an app, or contracting someone to make your organisation an app, this guide will give you some pointers on getting privacy right.

If you don’t make apps but you’re a smartphone user, the material in this guide represents how we think app makers should be communicating with you.

If you’re a developer, know that privacy is part of the landscape, and users are getting more and more privacy literate. If you treat them with respect, they’ll be more likely to trust you.

Setting out what you’re doing in the Terms and Conditions is skating close to bare minimum. Getting away from legalese, and communicating through a plain-English privacy policy is better. But really, we want to see privacy threading its way through the design process from start to finish – putting together a privacy policy should come naturally because you want to tell users what’s going on.

Communicating through tiny glass rectangles is a challenge, and we recognise that – but the amount of personal information flowing through people’s smartphones daily means it’s a challenge that you have to step up to. You have a responsibility to be clear about what is happening to information in and through your app.

The guide is built on five simple, but key points:

  • Make a plan and spot the risks.
  • When a user makes decisions - to download your app, update it, or share personal information - be there with the right information.
  • “Nice to know” doesn’t mean “need to know”.
  • Spend time working out how to make privacy clear and relevant with the tools you have.
  • Providing information in real time is as important as being up front in advance.

Consumers rely on established, trusted businesses to develop trustworthy apps. The brand can be enough for a person to assume that the permissions an app wants are necessary.

When apps don’t convey basic information about what the business is collecting personal information for, it’s hard for people to feel confident that their information is being looked after.

When an app developer finds a way to be clear about what is happening, people notice. It’s a way to convey to users that you’re trustworthy, that you know the value of their information and you’ll treat it with respect.

This is version 1.0, so if you think we can do better we’d love to hear about it. Get in touch either through enquiries@privacy.org.nz or @NZPrivacy on Twitter.

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