How To Ensure Data Transparency and Why It’s Important
Data transparency is vital in today’s reality of online shopping, social media, and cyberthreats. Read how developers can ensure users’ information stays safe.
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Data transparency is more important than ever before, with more people going online amid surging cyberthreats. Consumers are becoming more aware and critical of how software and websites use their data. More than a few companies have gotten bad publicity due to a lack of transparency about user data.
How can developers ensure they are providing good data transparency? A few key tactics will help.
Balancing the Two Sides of Transparency
The term data transparency refers to two related concepts that need to be balanced by developers. Information needs to be transparent so it's easy to access and utilize, no matter where it comes from. However, developers must be open with users about its use and storage.
These two goals may seem contradictory. After all, consumers may wonder if their data is actually secure if it is easily accessible by developers. This is exactly why the second half of data transparency’s definition is important. When developers are open about accessing and using data, security can be confirmed without compromising the information’s usability on the development end.
Key Tactics for Data Transparency
There are many ways of ensuring data transparency, but a few core techniques are helpful for any strategy. In general, good practices focus on maintaining security, functionality, and open communication.
1. Only Collect Necessary Data
One of the easiest ways to improve data transparency is to reduce the amount being collected. It can be tempting for software developers to collect a broad range of information with the reasoning that it’s better to have and not need. However, this creates a couple of issues for software developers.
Unnecessary data takes up valuable storage space in servers, which quickly gets expensive. Additionally, software developers are responsible for ensuring the security of the information their program collects, and unnecessary data adds complexity to that task. Finally, a major component of data transparency is communicating how and why it’s collected with users. Anything not needed will make this much more challenging and leave people wary or confused.
2. Bring Clients Into the Fold
If your project is being developed for a client rather than independently, it is important to bring them into the process early. Communicating and collaborating with clients on data transparency helps establish practices that work for the client's audience as well as developers. Additionally, people that have a firm understanding of how data is collected and used in their software can better communicate their policy with their users.
3. Map Out How Data Is Collected and Used
Optimizing and improving data transparency relies on maintaining a clear understanding of exactly where information goes once it is collected. This includes where it's stored, how it's moved to another location, and who has access to it. Mapping out all these elements can reveal areas for improvement.
For example, industry experts have pointed out that permissions for user data should be restricted to only those who need access. This helps reduce the risk of a leak and makes it easier to track how it’s being handled, improving transparency communication.
4. Establish a Data Transparency Policy
More businesses are adopting formal companywide data transparency policies. Software developers should consider adding these to their teams as well. This policy ensures accountability for developers and clients, which helps build trust with users.
A data transparency policy often includes details such as required communication with users, standards for the internal handling of data, and restrictions on what data is permitted to be collected. For example, a client might need users to be informed about any personal information being saved by a piece of software. A data transparency policy may also address whether or not people can opt-in or out of collection.
5. Understand Regulations
In addition to internal data transparency policies, developers must be aware of regional legal regulations. Many areas have adopted strict information protection legislation over recent years, which may impact how developers approach transparency.
One of the most well-known regulations is the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GDPR includes strict developer guidelines for collecting and processing personal information. Under these regulations, developers must provide clear legal reasoning for collecting user data and follow processing rules such as storage limits and confidentiality.
6. Consider Process Automation
Automating data collection and processing can help streamline transparency and improve security. Industry experts have pointed out that process automation can help developers and IT personnel. It makes it easier to manage high quantities of information and simplifies updates, as well. It may also allow developers to track who has access to data and how it is handled due to the simplicity automation creates. They can even automate the process of initially discovering data through scanners.
The Impact of Data Transparency
Data transparency is about more than meeting regulations. User trust can have profound implications for any company. How a business handles information internally can say a lot about organizational values and priorities.
Data transparency is closely tied to cybersecurity, which has become more important over recent years. For example, INTERPOL recorded a dramatic increase in cyberattacks worldwide in 2020, largely sparked by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Trust among the general public is shifting, as well. Tech company Cisco found in a 2020 study that an estimated 40% of consumers are skeptical about whether or not companies are following their own privacy policies. This is a clear indication of the need for data transparency.
Unless developers and businesses improve their data transparency, users will grow more suspicious about organizations’ integrity. This is likely to lead to a decrease in sales and adoption over time.
Innovating With Data Transparency
Data transparency can be a great opportunity for developers to improve their programs’ performance and design. It also helps create a user-first software development process that is considerate about how and why personal information is collected. Implementing effective data transparency practices allows for innovative software that puts trust front and center.
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