How Does GDPR Impact the App Development Workflow?

GDPR's impact on data privacy has been well-documented, but how does the regulation impact the actual development process?

Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) marks a new era in cybersecurity laws. It’s one of if not the most comprehensive and far-reaching data privacy regulations today, so it affects app development significantly.

GDPR fines can be hefty, so you want to do all you can to comply with it. Here’s how that will impact the app development workflow.

1. More Emphasis on Compliance

The biggest change you’ll notice is that regulations as a whole will play a more significant role in development. The GDPR is a European Union (EU) law, but it applies to any company doing business with EU citizens, so even if you’re in the U.S., you’ll have to consider European regulations. That means taking the time to review applicable laws, especially those that aren’t immediately obvious, is more important.

A lot can change in development, so it’s best to check regulations often. Outline requirements before coding, then review them every few weeks throughout the cycle to stay compliant.

2. Privacy by Design

One of the GDPR’s main tenets is “privacy by design.” This principle means apps should ensure data protection from the start instead of making it an add-on after you have a completed app.

For developers with privacy by design in mind, cybersecurity and data privacy should come up in every decision. When planning a new feature or deciding how something will work, consider how it will impact users’ security. If you have a dedicated security team, they should take an active role in development from the beginning.

3. Higher Transparency

Similarly, app development workflows should center around promoting transparency. The GDPR gives EU citizens the right to access and delete any data you have on them. If you want that to be practical, you must have full visibility over how your app collects and uses data.

You can’t tell users what you collect and why if you can’t see that yourself. Consequently, as you design your app, take the time to map out what information it gathers and how that data moves throughout the system. Having an in-depth data map before making an app live will make GDPR compliance much easier.

4. Higher Standards for Third Parties

The GDPR also means you should hold any third parties to a higher standard. The regulation applies to the data controller — you — and any data processors your app may use, like third-party hosting services, cloud storage providers or other partners.

If any other parties have access to user data in your app, you must ensure they meet GDPR standards, too. Generally speaking, it’s best to gather and share as little as possible, but if you must share anything, only do it with verified, trustworthy organizations. Remember, over 98% of businesses have at least one third-party partner that’s experienced a breach in the previous two years, so the fewer dependencies you have, the better.

5. More Cross-Discipline Collaboration

Finally, the GDPR means app development should involve more collaboration between departments. Because these regulations require such extensive data privacy controls, they impact all disciplines, from marketing and UX to management and ongoing operations.

The best way to ensure everyone adheres to these policies is to collaborate from the start. Involve key members from every department and skill set in regular meetings and decision-making to ensure you stay on the same page and comply with regulations.

All Developers Should Understand the GDPR

Even if your company isn’t based in the EU, the GDPR will likely apply to you in some capacity eventually. Learning it now and shaping your app development workflow around it will ensure you avoid fines and make legal compliance easier.

New laws and regulations inspired by the GDPR will likely arise, too. Being GDPR compliant before that happens helps you prepare for that future.

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