In today's world, analytics can play a major role. I still remember an article (read the article) which described the power of analysis in today's world, and how it can ever surprise non-industry people. The same article also highlighted the power and problems posed by Analytics in terms of privacy problems. If you read this article, you would be whacked by what data analysis can reveal, and also be shocked to some degree about what data reveals and whether you are comfortable with this kind of information about you being deducted.
And this is the main content of this post. If you are starting to collect data about your customers from within your software, you need to be sure that you are not overdoing it. Once you start designing what all data you are going to collect, you need to ensure that there are hard lines that set the boundaries for the data you are collecting. If you are using a component, you need to ensure that the component respects the same kind of data privacy constraints that you are using.
This might seem like going too excessive, but keep in mind that privacy is a big deal. Most software development teams are not equipped to determine as to what is proper or not. This was brought painfully clear to me when we let the development team design the analytics capturing process, including all the information that was supposed to be captured, and then, when we met the legal team, they junked more than 25% of the data that we wanted to capture. We did not like it, but there are certain boundaries that are required. The opposite is not worth talking about. You could go beyond the privacy guidelines and even implement them in your product and release them, and then there is a chance that somebody detects that you are capturing some information that is deemed as personal, and you are stuck. So, it is always recommended that once you get into the area of capturing information for analytics, make sure that it has been confirmed by somebody who is a privacy expert, which could be a legal person, or could be somebody else.
There are even more worries, especially when it comes to your product selling across geographies. A country or region may have different privacy standards when it comes to collecting information from the user's machine (for example, the European Union has far tighter guidelines when it comes to privacy) and you need to ensure that you are not falling foul of one region by following the standards of another. For example, a privacy guideline of a region would be to insist that the users know about the information that it to be collected, as well as have given their permissions for the same.
But, this is not to say that you should start getting scared about capturing user information. If you have a verified system of guidelines and are following those, you should not be worried about this. Make sure that you are doing your best to capture the relevant information, and you can learn far more about your users preference than you expected, which will help you make the best decisions about your product.
Read more in the next post (Measuring data relating to user information - Part 5)