More than half of mobile applications may not meet the European Union’s privacy standards that go into effect on May 25, according to a study by SafeDK, a mobile software development kit (SDK) management platform. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) aims to protect EU citizens from privacy and data breaches by limiting how personal information gets shared.
SafeDK found that more than 5% of top apps had at least one SDK that gets access to a mobile user’s location. SDKs help app designers speed up the development process, giving mobile apps a bundle of features including the way they handle data about smartphone users.
More than 40% of apps had at least one SDK accessing the list of installed apps on a user’s device, and nearly 30% of apps had at least one SDK that accesses user contacts. More than 58% of ad-network SDKs had access to user data. The average number of mobile SDKs have grown to an average of 18.5 per app, a trend that may be reversed with the implementation of GDPR.
Mobile app developers need to be mindful of the EU’s pending privacy laws to avoid costly fines or lengthy legal battles. Violators face a maximum penalty of 4% of global annual sales or 20 million euros ($24.5 million), whichever is greater, per Reuters. That means developers need to scrutinize the software tools they use to build apps to ensure they won’t inadvertently violate data protection regulations. In addition, the Google Play app store for Android phones last year started to purge apps without privacy policies.
Facebook, whose SDK is one of the most popular among app developers, plans to make it easier for its more than 2 billion users to manage their personal data, COO Sheryl Sandberg said this week. Several EU data protection authorities have already investigated Facebook’s use of customer data and the tracking of people’s online activities. The EU last year hit Facebook with a fine of 100 million euros for allegedly misleading regulators during a 2014 review of the WhatsApp messaging-service takeover, per Bloomberg.
More than 250 mobile games use software from Alphonso, a start-up that collects TV viewing data for advertisers. The apps have the ability to monitor the viewing habits of their users, including children, even when the games aren’t being played, per the New York Times. Alphonso said its software doesn’t record human speech, while its app description and privacy policies are clearly explained. The company can’t gain access to users’ microphones and locations unless they agree, per Alphonso.