4 Best Data Collection Practices for Mobile App Developers

Mobile data is a gift from the digital marketing gods. The good stuff is invaluable. Its potential uses, collection methods, and sheer breadth are as unlimited as your imagination. Your users might not even recognize how very valuable their data is – but as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.

Obtaining mobile user data is a transaction: Both parties must gain something. Keep up your end of the bargain and give your users the respect for their info that their faith in your app deserves. Here are a few options to do just that:

  1. Tell users why you’re asking for app permissions. Just because many click right through those permissions screens doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explain. An up-front, truthful approach can be the digital equivalent of an aphrodisiac. For example, your flashlight app shouldn’t need location permissions – but if it does, tell users why. This could be a great chance to highlight a cool feature, such as the ability to communicate your location if you’re lost in the woods, where, ya know, it’s dark.
  1. Offer choices. Some people have more time than money, while others, just the opposite. Acknowledging varying needs admits everyone to the party. For example, you might offer both ad-supported and paid versions. In each case, be clear about the tradeoffs: “We ask for location data in our ad-supported version to minimize annoying, irrelevant advertising and bring you ads that reflect your interests. This enables us to continue providing this valuable app to you for free.” And, “Our paid version offers an ad-free experience and the ability to [insert extra perks here].”
  1. Don’t collect and distribute personally identifiable information. Just don’t. It’s a Very Bad idea. You’re likely to violate an alphabet soup of regulations and guidelines – for example, the advertising standards of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the Mobile Application Code of the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), and international privacy legislation. Plus, Apple will ban you to the Island of Misfit Apps, where you’ll have more than enough time to ask Wilson the Volleyball what went wrong.
  1. For the love of all things digital, don’t install SDKs. Treat your users’ data as the precious info it is; don’t compromise its safety. For example, if you’re going to collect location data, keep it on servers you control. If you choose to monetize it, do it through FTP transfer (aka, “server to server sync”). It’s the only safe way of collecting and distributing anonymous data.

Your mobile app can be a potential gold mine – or a minefield. Tread carefully, and your users will reward you with expanding sales, growing revenue, and perhaps most importantly, their trust.