With great data, comes great responsibility

As 2018 dawns, there’s a cold wind blowing in Washington DC, and it threatens to freeze app developers dead in their tracks.

Those that have spent a few years watching how Washington works know the patterns Congress falls into. For instance, when Congress is struggling to find its legislative footing, there tends to be a flurry of hearings on complex but populist issues in an attempt to show THINGS ARE HAPPENING. So while it seems like all the oxygen in DC is taken up by the political circus, there are a few worrisome items appearing on the congressional agenda. Data, algorithms, and privacy are the ones developers should be watching closely.

Your livelihood depends on it.

Europe is already well down the path of raising the cost - and risk - of tapping user data or providing ad-supported services: plans for storage and security obligations, user rights to data portability and “refunds," fines for security failures, and rules that extend obligations to any company doing business with an EU citizen. While these rules are well-intentioned, they reflect a tragic imbalance that will drive innovation out of Europe and disadvantage European users. We’re doing our best to help Brussels understand the implications of what they’re doing, but the digital economy is complicated and so far the focus is on speedy action over wise decisions.

Do you have any EU citizens in your user base? Be worried. Oh, and the US is next.

Luckily, it’s not too late for our industry to turn things around. Nobody understands the usefulness and benefits of data better than the women and men that write the code and build the apps that capitalize on it. Developers are uniquely informed and empowered to do the right thing for our users; something policy makers can never be.

There are two paths forward for our industry. In one future, bureaucrats with only a weak understanding of the internet and its promise call the shots, and rules are based on collective fear and ignorance. In the other, we come together as an industry and help policy makers and users understand data’s promise while stepping up and addressing their legitimate concerns.

In response to what’s happening in the regulatory world, the Developers Alliance has embarked on a project to educate policy makers on data - how it’s used, how it’s collected, and what it enables. We’re also collecting and compiling best practices from our members on how to steward user data and build apps that respect our role in the digital ecosystem.

We encourage all our members to get engaged and help us with this work.

In the meantime, let’s look forward to happy and healthy New Year for all.


Bruce Gustafson
President & CEO