Mobile apps have a problem, the cause may be GDPR

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May 10, 2022, 5:02 p.m.

It turns out that the Personal Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is hampering the development of the mobile market. Researchers from various parts of the world have come to this conclusion, although not all agree on this.


Image source above: geralt/Pixabay.

It appeared on the net documentin which it is stated that the GDPR and other legal regulations concerning the protection of personal data have contributed to the inhibition of the development of the mobile market. The authors of the study concluded that the regulation contributes to an increase in app development costs, a decrease in developer income, and therefore also a reduction in the number of apps themselves in virtual stores.

The document in question is titled “GDPR and the Lost Generation of Innovative Apps”. It was developed by Rebecca Janssen (from ZEW Mannheim in Germany), Reinhold Kesler (from the University of Zurich in Switzerland), Michael Kummer (from the University of East Anglia in the UK) and Joel Waldfogel (from the ‘University of Minnesota in the United States). Each of them is specialized in the field of economics.

The GDPR is holding back the development of mobile applications?

Researchers looked at 4.1 million apps from the Google Play Store, which were available from 2016 to 2019. According to their observations, legal regulations on the protection of personal data have contributed to reducing the number of programs available by a third. Since the introduction of the GDPR, the number of new “apps” has dropped by 47.2%. The authors also note that this has limited the influx of users and their use of the app.

Since the emergence of the aforementioned regulations, mobile software developers have been forced to incur costs related to the development of systems that will provide transparency in the processing of private data. Failure to comply with these regulations results in heavy financial penalties and, of course, a ban on distributing the application.

GDPR is not to blame for this

Dr. Łukasz Olejnik (an independent cybersecurity and privacy researcher) appreciated the authors’ work, but at the same time wonders if they missed an important question in their study.. It also undermines the thesis that it is these regulations that have contributed to slowing the development of the mobile market. In an excerpt from his email to The Register, we read:

The authors ignored (or ignore) the fact that similar regulations existed in Europe before the GDPR took effect. (…) For example: I read that “due to the GDPR, developers must seek consent to the processing of data…”, and this was the case before the regulation was enacted.

Max Schrems (lawyer and online privacy activist) adds that if it was really GDPR and such we would probably see a situation where many apps would only be available in the US. He also draws attention to the fact that in the last three years he hasn’t been informed of any privacy abuse of an app – he comes across such reports all the time.

Additionally, there are other factors that may contribute to this inhibition, which were not taken into account in the study.. One speaks, for example, of periodic “purges”, during which less useful applications are deleted. According to specialists opposed to the thesis presented in the article, there is also no comparison between the mobile markets in Europe and the United States.

Mobile apps have a problem, the reason may be GDPR - illustration #1

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