Insights · 6 min read

4 best practices to keep your website and app private by default

The Fullstory Team
Posted July 31, 2023
4 best practices to keep your website and app private by default

Privacy is a paramount concern for consumers in 2023. Whatever their preferred online shopping platform, privacy is a priority, with 67% of consumers listing “personal information remaining private” as essential to a positive digital experience.

Websites and mobile apps gather an increasing amount of user data, making it critical to prioritize privacy and protect end users. This is necessary, of course, to provide a top digital experience–but it comes with great responsibility. 

Often, digital experience and mobile app analytics platforms fail to protect user privacy–resulting in regulatory consequences, reputational damage, decreased business partnerships, and loss of user trust. 

If you cringed reading that, you’re not alone. 

According to a KPMG survey, 62% of business leaders say their company should do more to strengthen existing data protection measures–and 86% of consumers say data privacy is a growing concern for them. 

Here at Fullstory, we’re just as concerned with protecting end user privacy, and that’s why we’ve developed and implemented a “Private-by-Default” philosophy. 

What is “Private by Default”?

Private by Default is Fullstory’s novel approach to collecting data. This functionality is core to Fullstory’s product and minimizes the risk of unintentionally capturing sensitive data. And we say “capture” instead of recording for a reason.

We don’t record anything. Ever. Recording sessions can result in privacy snafus. 

Our privacy-first approach is made possible by proprietary masking technology that essentially transforms non-allowlisted elements of your website or app into a wireframe during session replay. These wireframes allow you to see that valuable user interactions occurred, which means even if you don’t allowlist a single element, you are still able to gain deep insights into the user experience.

Like other analytics solutions that use broad strokes recording and substandard privacy rules, failing to properly scope your session capture rules may result in the collection of sensitive data. But “Private by Default” means you can use Fullstory straight out of the box with minimal risk of collecting unwanted end-user data.

With that, we’ve identified four best practices that will help businesses keep their websites and mobile apps privacy-forward.

1. Implement strong user consent mechanisms

A study by the Pew Research Center states 79% of adults are concerned about their personal information being misused. With that, user consent is a foundational aspect of privacy protection. To ensure compliance with privacy regulations and to build trust with end users, businesses need robust user consent mechanisms. 

When collecting data–whether it be through session replay, product analytics, or mobile app analytics, it’s crucial to partner with a platform that honors end user privacy. Not many do. 

Whereas many platforms record private data, send it to their servers, and scrub it after the fact, Fullstory elegantly operates by respecting the consent of end users with FS.Consent. FS.Consent helps businesses determine what data should be sent to Fullstory by relying on end users’ already-configured privacy settings, allowing you to breathe a sigh of relief. We’ve got it covered. 

It’s a seamless way to manage user consent, ensuring compliance with privacy regulations such as GDPR and CCPA.

2. Be surgical–and intentional–with data collection 

Much like a seasoned surgeon dissects and removes only what’s necessary to effectively accomplish the task at hand, providing the utmost care to the patient, website and app owners must adopt the same laser-focus–and empathy–when it comes to collecting user data. 

Excessive collection increases the risk of misuse, unauthorized access, and breaches of privacy. By adopting a Private-by-Default philosophy, site and app owners can collect only what’s necessary–minimizing messy collection, optimizing internal teams’ work, and enhancing user trust. 

How might one do this using Fullstory’s functionality? It’s simple: collect what you need and leave what you don’t. 

While other solutions require manual instrumentation of each and every element, opening you up to user error, a large backlog of work, and missing sensitive information–a Private-by-Default philosophy masks all text at the source. Furthermore, it allows you to choose elements you may want to unmask or exclude, depending on their contents and/or the consent of your users. 

This is all done efficiently within the app, allowing teams to respond quickly to necessary changes without waiting for engineering bandwidth–an option not offered in all digital experience and mobile app analytics solutions.

3. Double down on detection 

While end-user privacy can be seen as a science, it’s also a practice. With thousands of visitors, complicated web and app architecture, and ever-changing regulations–even with a robust digital experience and mobile app analytics platform–it can be hard to keep up with the sensitive information that may be hidden in sneaky ways on your site or app. 

Using a platform that solves the issue of personal data slipping through the cracks is choosing to be proactive instead of reactive. Ensuring your team has a backstop is a best practice that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

It can be difficult to gather all the information you need to make an informed decision about personally identifiable information (PII) and privacy—when you need to take action immediately. These gaps can put you and your company's–and your end users’–privacy at risk.

With Fullstory, businesses can use Detections, a privacy capability that illuminates the places sensitive PII may exist. It monitors for select categories of sensitive data, such as credit card numbers and passwords, and automatically identifies and categorizes PII, so teams can take action quickly. Detections locates issues in real-time, minimizing any impact. 

4. Be transparent with your data handling practices 

Transparency is key to building trust with your users. Clearly communicate how you handle user data, including storage, processing, and sharing practices. 

A study by Label Insight found that 94% of users will stay loyal to a transparent brand. Using a product and mobile app analytics platform that allows you to have customizable privacy policies, consent preferences, and data usage notifications, helps you provide transparent data handling practices to your users. 

By leveraging Fullstory's privacy management tools, you can showcase your commitment to data privacy, fostering trust and loyalty–and positively impact the bottom line for your business. 

Go forward confidently with a Private-by-Default philosophy

In an era where privacy concerns are top of mind, prioritizing privacy in website and app development is crucial. By implementing strong user consent mechanisms, minimizing data collection, doubling down on detection, and offering transparent data handling practices, you can ensure your website and app are Private by Default.

With Fullstory's advanced product and mobile app analytics and session replay capabilities, coupled with customizable privacy features, you can continue to optimize your DX without jeopardizing user privacy. 

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The Fullstory TeamContributor

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Our team of data and user experience experts share tips and best practices.

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