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Serverless Stack for Mobile Application Development – ReadWrite



Satyam Chaturvedi

There is a famous saying that technological advancement in the past 20 years has eclipsed the changes happening in the entire history of Mankind. The current digital gadgets which we use, such as wearable watches, Tablets, Smartphones, were not even thinkable a few decades back — the same goes with Softwares. The Technology world has evolved at an astonishing pace in the last 20 years.

Serverless Stack for Mobile Application Development

With the advent of Cloud computing, this usual pattern was changed; it offers flexibility to take server space and other computing capabilities on rent. Cloud vendors offer a pay-per-usage model, which was extremely beneficial for Application developers and owners. Cloud computing now has users pay only for those resources, which are in use — they don’t have to think about the maintenance and other aspects.

What is Serverless?

We believe the term ‘Serverless’ does not mean there is no involvement of Servers. However, these Services and Infrastructure resources are provided by a specific 3rd Party vendors as a backend service.

The developers can purchase these backend services on a pay-per-usage basis. Most of the cloud Vendors provide database storage services as Function-as-a-Service platforms. These platforms help developers to execute codes on the edge without storing any data.

What are the advantages of serverless computing?

Lower costs and “Pay as you Use.”

Compute resource cost is one of the biggest concerns for any organization, as it occupies most of the budgetary allocations.

Seamless Scalability – Everyone wants their mobile application to be used by millions of users, but the biggest hurdle is if we can scale the application in a similar proportion of our increasing user base. This question haunts the developers and Application owners, as they are not sure of the extent of the scalability of their application.

Here comes Serverless architecture for our rescue; it allows unlimited scaling, without worrying about the provisioning of Servers.

Simplified backend code

It offers Function-as-a-Service, which is a big boon for the developers. They can create and execute simple functions that can perform their intended purpose, like making Application programming interface calls and several other system functions.

Quicker turnaround and less time to Market – The application market is witnessing a cut-throat competition; If your competitor gets it first, then you will lose it. In this case, Serverless architecture offers the capability to add new functions and features in a few hours, instead of weeks or months.

It enables developers to cut down the time to market and deploy and release the updates so quickly. Developers get an option to add and modify the code in a piecemeal fashion.

Lower Latency for end-users – However, as code can run closer to the end-user and can run virtually from anywhere, it reduces the latency issues up to a great extent.

What is Serverless Stack?

The first thing to remember, if we talk in general terms — a Stack is a collection of Operating Systems, tools, languages, databases, scripting language, web servers, frameworks, and APIs, etc. All of these pieces of the “Stack Collection” come together to develop an entire software solution.

Nowadays, every mobile application has some common traits like scalability, security, and maintainability. A serverless stack enables developers to build the right product, which can specially fulfill these additional requirements.

Front End development stack

  • React – It is an open-source library developed by Facebook, that is used to create beautiful and highly reactive user interfaces for single web page applications and Mobile applications.
  • Babel – It is an open-source JavaScript trans-compiler that converts ECMAScript codes into a backward-compatible version of JavaScript. It offers developers the ability to use the latest features of JavaScript.
  • AWS Amplify – It is a group of tools and services that helps developers to build secure and scalable full-stack serverless mobile applications. By AWS; hence one can expect seamless support and features of AWS cloud.
  • Apollo GraphQL Client – It is a comprehensive state management library based on JavaScript, which helps developers to manage both local and remote data with GraphQL.
  • Webpack – It is an open-source bundler for JavaScript modules. It processes modules with dependencies capable enough to generate static assets corresponding to those modules occasionally.

Backend development stack

  • NodeJs – It is an open-source JavaScript runtime environment, which offers cross-platform support. It runs and executes the code outside a web browser.
  • AWS Lambda – It is a serverless computing platform that is driven by events and has been provided by Amazon as a part of AWS. It is a computing service that executes code in response to event-triggered and manages resources.
  • AWS S3 – It stands for AWS Simple Storage Service, which provides object storage via a web service interface. Amazon S3 uses Amazon’s famous scalable storage infrastructure, which is the backbone of Amazon’s global e-commerce network.
  • AWS CloudFormation – It allows developers to use code or a simple text file to execute provisioning and modeling in an automated and secure manner. It allocates required resources to the mobile application and ensures it never faces any issues. It also offers a common platform to bring in third-party resources to our application.
  • Serverless Framework – It is an open-source serverless framework written using Node.js.

Programming Languages for Serverless mobile application development

  • Java – It is the most reliable option while choosing the backbone of the serverless stack. It frequently works with AWS Lambda; it comes with massive libraries and tools which come in handy while developing serverless mobile applications.
  • NodeJS – NodeJS got more popular because of all the plugins it supports. The spin-up times are better than you get with Java or C+. These two things make it the best bet for developing client-facing applications.
  • Python – Though this language has been available for almost 3 decades, it has garnered enormous popularity in the last couple of years, it attains a cult status, and Python applications could be seen everywhere. It comes with a huge number of Third-party modules, which helps it interact with other languages and development platforms. Due to its ever-increasing popularity, it enjoys brilliant support from its communities. Surprisingly, It has more than 1,50,000 support packages to provide necessary help to the end-users and developers. Another big advantage of Python is its simplicity, extremely easy to learn, and it helps developers avoid overcomplicating programming architecture.
  • Go – It is comparatively a new contender, but with some amazing features to offer, it already creates a niche for itself. The biggest advantage it has with its best-in-class tenacity of 1.x, which outperforms its competitors like Java. A good tenacity rate is an assurance of a quick compilation of code without frequent alterations. In addition, it uses static binaries, which gives the ability to developers not to worry about the static linking. Go offers forward compatibility with AWS Lambda programs which makes it a big boon for serverless mobile application development.
  • Net.Core Net.Core language is popular among those who want to run their .net applications on AWS.


  • AWS DynamoDb – It is an Amazon proprietary NoSQL database service, which supports key-value and document data structures. It shares an almost similar data model approach and derives its name from Dynamo Database; however, the difference lies in their implementation.
  • AWS Aurora Serverless – It is an auto-scaling and on-demand and auto-scaling configuration for Amazon Aurora. However, it is a MySQL and PostgreSQL compatible version, and it offers seamless scalability to the applications. It offers automatic scale capacity up.
  • FaunaDB It is a distributed and consistent NoSQL database that offers a multi-model interface offering a unique architecture where it can span to clouds as well as continents. FaunaDB supports relational, graph, temporal, and document data sets from a single query. This database has its own FQL query language and supports GraphQL query language.
  • Azure CosmosDB It is Microsoft’s proprietary database service, which is a multi-model database service and distributed globally in a way that it can manage the data at a planet-scale.
  • Firebase Realtime DB It is a cloud-hosted NoSQL database, which lets applications store and sync the data between different users in real-time.

Authentication and Authorization tools

  • Amazon Cognito User Pool – It is a user directory available in Amazon Cognito. Using this user pool, users can sign into the mobile app or the web portal via Amazon Cognito. Users can also sign in through social media identity providers like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Apple, etc.
  • OKTA – It enforces strong security policies and still allows end-users to access supported applications on any phone model and has one of its kind of integrated platform, where it could be paired with the organization’s directories services and other identity tools. It is easy to integrate and can be implemented quickly at a vast level with low costs.
  • Auth0 – It provides a common platform to authorize, authenticate and provide secure access to the users, who want to use any application or device. It is very simple and highly extensible, with more than 4.5 billion average authentication transactions every month. It is a comparatively new tool but still has generated a huge clientele base.
  • Microsoft Azure Active Directory – It is one of the most renowned identity and access management solutions, which is cloud-based. It provides some of the strong and robust capabilities, through which one can manage users and groups. It can facilitate their secure access to the organization’s apps, along with Microsoft services like Office 365.
  • OneLogin – It is one of the simplest identity management software which provides one-click secure access for end-users, to simple or enterprise cloud-based applications, on all kinds of devices.


Docker is a tool to develop, deploy, and run serverless mobile applications by using containers. A container allows a developer to combine the application with all the necessary parts it requires, such as libraries and other 3rd party dependencies, and deploy it as one package.

On the other hand, It is a set of Platforms-as-a-service products, which uses operating-system-level virtualization to deliver packages in the form of containers.

Error Tracking and Reporting tools

  • Sentry – It is a popular error tracking and reporting tool, which is loved by the developers for its application monitoring platform. It helps diagnose and fix the performance of the code. Sentry uses stack traces to enhance the performance of the mobile application. It uses Breadcrumbs to identify the chronology of events that could have caused the error.
  • Instabug – It offers real-time Insights into the mobile application lifecycle. It has strong bug detection and feedback reporting systems; it also comes with a secure crash reporting mechanism which makes it strong enough to support 2 billion devices.
  • Rollbar – It is known for its high performance, which helps developers test and deploys software at a rapid pace by fixing coding errors. It works simultaneously with any existing tool to ensure better coverage to identify and close the broken codes.
  • Raygun – It works on both mobile applications and web applications and raises the alarm the moment any code error is identified. All we need to add Raygun to our code, and it starts detecting bugs in a real-time fashion.
  • Jira – It is one of the most renowned and widely used tools for tracking issues, organizing them, and taking a follow-up for them until closed. Similarly, It works seamlessly with all kinds of web applications and mobile applications.

Testing tools

  • Azure Functions Core Tools – It is Microsoft’s proprietary tools that let developers test their functions on a local computer from the command prompt or terminal.
  • Mocha – It is a feature-rich JavaScript test framework, which runs on Node.js.
  • Jasmine – is an open-source testing framework for JavaScript. It aims to run on a JavaScript-enabled platform and to have easy-to-read syntax.
  • Jest – It is a JavaScript testing framework, which is to ensure the correctness of any JavaScript codebase that runs through it. It provides an easy and simple interface to write and execute tests in an approachable and familiar way.
  • Local Stack – It is a local AWS cloud stack, that provides an easy-to-use test and mocking framework for developing serverless mobile applications.

Application Security Tools

  • Protego – It offers a full application development lifecycle security. It offers a Policy manager, Security posture explorer, and third-party vulnerability reports. It has a robust integration with cloud platforms, which helps us detect and address problems with access and privileges. In other words, Protego also comes with an inbuilt analytics engine, which uses ML algorithms to assess and detect threats. They also take preventative actions to avoid any threats, malicious attacks, and anomalies.
  • PureSec – It provides a full-fledged security solution for serverless architectures and supports all the major cloud vendors, and provides security dashboards, which can be used to retrieve forensic information to conduct investigations for security incidents. PureSec has a platform to analyze functions to find out the vulnerabilities and misconfigurations in the existing system. Hence, for security concerns — runtime protection for a serverless app, where it scans input data and analyzes any injection attacks.
  • An inbuilt behavioral protection engine, which uses deep learning to detect any malicious transactions in mobile applications. Seamless integration with available SIEM tools to fetch security event information.

Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD)

It is a mechanism to deliver applications to customers rapidly by adding automation into the app development process. The first thing to remember CI/CD is a concept of continuous integration, continuous deployment, and continuous delivery of Mobile applications. We have certain CI/CD tools that can help us improve the integration and delivery process.

  • Jenkins – It is an open-source automation server, which helps in building and integrating the applications. It is basically a Java-based software, which also contains the components and packages from macOS, Windows, or Unix operating systems. There are many plugins in it, which support rapid development, deployment, and automation of mobile application development projects.
  • CircleCI – It is another top-rated tool that supports fast-pacing application development and publishing. Above all, It allows automation in various phases of Mobile app development. It performs continuous integration for cloud-managing options, and it runs behind a firewall on private infrastructure as well.
  • Bamboo is a continuous integration server that automates mobile software application releases by creating a continuous delivery pipeline.
  • GitLab – It is a comprehensive suite of tools used to manage all aspects of the mobile application development lifecycle, having an inbuilt Git repository manager that allows developers to run tests, deploy code, trigger builds with each commit. It allows the creation of jobs in virtual machines or Docker containers.
  • TeamCity – It is a continuous integration tool developed by JetBrains that helps the development and deployment of different types of projects.


It is a proven fact that having infrastructure as code and automating provisioning is the biggest way forward as far as Software development is concerned, and a serverless framework can help us achieve the desired results with much ease.

In addition, a Serverless stack is a big boon for developers, and it can do miracles if used efficiently for the right purposes. It allows us to keep a check on infrastructure costs and provides a seamless ability to scale application services.

Moreover, You can choose the best tool and technology to create your own customized serverless stack for mobile application development. It depends on your organization’s requirements and the vision for the application.

Satyam Chaturvedi

Satyam Chaturvedi is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Arka Softwares. Being a tech addict, I love to spend time in studying market trends and helping startups and enterprises in achieving their business goals.


Increase Your Conversions With Exit Popups | ReadWrite



Armen Baghdasaryan

In the ever-growing era of the internet, people rely on eCommerce to satisfy their wants, on several social media for marketing and being self-employed, being a developer for a top company, and many other things that seemed impossible if you ask someone in the 2000s.

With the introduction of the internet, the whole world is at a fast pace. Fast forward this to the 21st century, right now. People are battling for their spot on the internet right now. The battle is to gain as much audience or followers as possible. Exit popup plays a crucial role in this race.

How to Increase Your Conversions With Exit Popups

But first, we have to know the meaning of the term ‘exit popup,’ and for what purposes it is used.

What is an Exit Popup?

Exit intent popup is basically a technique that retains people from leaving the website. In simple terms, it is a popup that can convince people to sign up, buy a product or even subscribe to a newsletter. You might have seen these popups on several websites, especially eCommerce websites.

The main purpose of these popups is to increase conversion rates. Exit popup basically gives your viewers a second chance to leave your website. This technique is based on the position of the mouse cursor in a computer, whereas there is a time interval between the appearance of the popups. While your viewer might have left, when you use an exit popup, the chances are that the viewer will stay.

It has been recorded that by using exit popups, email sign-ups skyrocketed by 1200% and more! This increase is huge.

Where are Exit Popups Used?

Exit-intent popups are almost everywhere on the internet, from blogs to SaaS businesses. Even retail businesses use it.

Most of these are used by the fashion industry, followed by consumer electronics, travel, food and health, etc. But there is a common thing about all these industries. The common thing is that they are promoting a physical product with which people can interact with. Of course, it doesn’t mean that digital products don’t work. Take an example of a hosting website. They sell digital products, yet they have huge sales.

The thing is, the products that people are selling should be beneficial to the people. That’s why targeted marketing is necessary.

Exit popups have increased the conversion rates of these products. Hence, most websites use these techniques.

Exit popups were specifically made for computer users. But due to the advancements of electronics like smartphones, exit-intent popups are shown in smartphones too. Although the mechanism is different, popups on smartphones basically work on the scrolling patterns and they can also be time-based.

Exit popups can literally be used on every website. It can range from email signups, purchasing a product, subscribing to a newsletter, anything!

Exit popups have become highly famous among eCommerce websites. You could say that these popups were made for eCommerce websites. Although, as I mentioned before, it can be used for any website.

There are even chances that these popups might be used in the social media platform in a few years. Even though the chances are slim currently, it might just be possible for you to show someone who visits your profile a popup.

But in order to reap the benefits, there are certain conditions. Let’s talk about what benefits we could get by using Exit Popups.

The Benefits of Using Exit Intent Popups

There are numerous benefits from the use of these popups. The number one being an increase in conversion rates and a decrease in people bounce rates.

Increased Conversion Rates

This is probably one of the most amazing benefits of using an exit-intent popup. If implemented well, they are recorded to boost conversion sales by up to 53% to 1200%. This is a huge jump.

Conversion rates can vary by how interactive your popup is. It might be humorous, aggressive(like a discount) or something else.

Decrease in Bounce Rates

Bounce rates are basically the percentage of people leaving the website when they are not interested in your product or service.

If you make a well interactive popup, you can decrease bounce rates. There are reports that in some websites, the bounce rates decreased from 70% to 35%.


The amazing thing is that you can show these exit popups how you want them to be to others. It means that you can customize how a popup will appear on a viewer’s screen. What this does is creates a sense of specialty that it was made just for the viewer.

There are huge chances that a person will do whatever the popup says if it is customized.

Guide to Increase Your Conversions With Exit Popups

Even though there are many benefits from the use of exit popups, the wrong implementation will lead to the failure of this technique. Then what is the correct implementation of exit-intent popups? Let’s answer that.

Implementation of this technique can only be successful by understanding the behavior or psychology of the viewer. By correctly understanding their behavior, we can assume what product or what type of content does the viewer likes.

Implementation of these techniques can be a tough job. But we are here to ease up the toughness of your job.


The design can make or break your journey. It is advised to keep the design of exit popups as user-friendly as possible. Use eye-catching colors, improve the overall quality of your design.

Use good colors with which almost everyone is comfortable. The reason why you should choose good colors is that specific colors show specific signals. For example, red is considered a danger signal in our brain.  So using too much red color could negatively affect your visitors’ experience when browsing your website.


It is not at all necessary to use an image in your popup. But when you use it, make sure it speaks to the viewer, has good colors, and is relevant to the niche of your website, product or service.

Also, make sure that you have a license to use that particular image or you are using Creative Commons images. If not, you might face copyright infringement. Pixabay and Pexels have a wide range of copyright-free images.

Main Title

The title is the first thing your viewers will notice. So, it should be interactive and it should persuade them. Like, offering a limited-time discount, bonus offers to make your viewers feel special. An eye-catching title is necessary.


After the title, people will choose to look at the description of your popup. This part will explain why your viewers should do the action you are stating, and by doing this, what benefit are they getting.

It can also make or break a particular customer’s decision. An eye-catching description is deemed to perform better than the ones having a less structured and informative description.


The CTA (call-to-action) tells your particular viewer on what he/she should do to earn the bonus or benefits. It could be a sign-up, discount offer, download link, anything that makes the viewer interact with your exit popup.

The CTA increases gradually when you put relevant CTAs like sign-ups, downloads, etc. One thing you should notice is that these CTAs should consume as much little time as possible of the customers. It should not be able to increase the burden of your viewers.


It is also important to address the privacy of the viewers. Make sure that you respect their privacy and mention it. It not only builds trust but also helps in future endeavors.

Link your website or your popup to a privacy policy page. People should feel safer while buying your product, not be in constant fear of being a victim of fraud.

Exit Popups Customization

When it comes to anything online, people differ in their opinions and choices. So you should never treat all of your visitors the same. By this, I mean that you should offer different viewers different choices with which they are able to cooperate.


Exit popups are a great way of generating sales, sign-ups and more. But using it the correct way, as mentioned above, is important to see results. It works especially well on eCommerce websites. Of course, all others can reap the benefits of these exit popups.

Pro tip:- Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see the result from day 1 or day 30. Good things take time.

The thing to note is that you should experiment as much as possible with your popup and stick to the one that gave better results than before. It’s all about understanding customers and experimenting with what they would choose.

Armen Baghdasaryan

Armen Baghdasaryan is an experienced digital marketing specialist who is always keen to keep up with the latest updates in the industry and come up with the best marketing solutions.

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6 Software Solutions Your B2B Company Needs in Its Tech Stack – ReadWrite



Brad Anderson

Communication and collaboration between departments and teams are essential for efficiency and success. While each team member has an individual job and departments carry out different functions, they can’t work in a vacuum.

Software Solutions Your B2B Company Needs

Client-based applications may have been sufficient in the past. But with the need for instantaneous, anytime, anywhere data sharing, cloud-based solutions can streamline your operations.

Cloud services fall under various categories. Software as a service, or SaaS, is the best known. However, other models such as integration platform as a service, or IPaaS, are providing new capabilities. An IPaaS lets you integrate local and cloud applications. You can create and implement ways to seamlessly transfer data back and forth between the two.

The following 6 software solutions can optimize everything from app integration and secure document sharing to task automation and security training.

Read on to discover the cloud-based services your business needs in its tech stack.

1. Workato

Workato is a business automation platform that connects the multiple applications your company uses. Your B2B organization can develop customized workflows and automate them. Unlike with a traditional IPaaS, you don’t need the IT folks to create these processes.

The platform doesn’t require knowledge of complicated coding in order to automate and optimize workflows.

That means employees that work in non-technical roles like marketing and finance can use Workato, too. There are AI chatbots for easy and constant access to data across departments. Gartner has recognized Workato as a market leader in the enterprise IPaaS arena for three consecutive years.

2. CapLinked

Businesses can securely upload, share, and collaborate on deal-related documents with CapLinked. What makes this tool so versatile is that you can create and manage different virtual workspaces. Set up one space with documents that pertain to supplier contracts, then create another space for internal strategic marketing plans.

CapLinked has built-in communication features, including editing and deadline alerts, email updates, FAQ notifications, and instant messaging. You can also set and change access at the file or workspace level as employees and contacts change. To make this process simpler, you can create and manage groups from contact lists.

Implement extra layers of security by requiring logins to open downloaded files. These permissions can be taken away as needed, along with viewing and printing abilities. You can also enable watermarking if desired. And rest assured that CapLinked’s servers are SSAE 18 and ISO 27001 certified; the platform is also HIPAA and SOC 2 compliant.

3. Stampli

Stampli is an accounts payable automation solution. This platform connects to the accounting system your company already uses. Stampli can read invoices as they come in and learn how to code and send them through for approval. With built-in AI, this tool automatically detects duplicates, makes calculations, and provides purchase order support.

Communication about invoices happens right in the application. If there are questions about whether a department received products or services, they can be easily answered. This can help make the approval process more efficient and accurate.

Security, auditing, and payments are controllable from within the dashboard. You can set permissions for employee access to invoices and information. Payments can go out through your existing process, or you can use Stampli Direct Pay. All direct-pay transactions are done via the Automated Clearing House, or ACH, making reconciliation time, less of a headache.

4. Paycom

Paycom is a SaaS human resources solution that can manage workflows related to attracting new employees, developing existing ones, running payroll, and delivering benefits. The talent acquisition piece automates online job postings, candidate tracking, and onboarding for new hires. Your HR team won’t have to re-enter successful candidate data for background checks, tax credits, or I-9 verifications.

Performance reviews, goals, and expectations for current team members fall under Paycom’s talent management dashboard. Supervisors can work with HR to determine skills and requirements for positions, in addition to salaries. If desired, employees can complete 360-degree reviews for peers and self-evaluations.

The payroll function integrates regular paychecks, expense report reimbursements, and garnishments. Any changes to federal and local state payroll tax laws will be reflected in the software. Accounting reports for general ledger purposes can be customized and automated.

Paycom lets your team members see their elected benefits and how making changes to insurance plans would impact their deductions. They can change their insurance coverage from the application and ask any questions they might have.

5. Salesforce

Salesforce is a cloud-based customer relationship management platform. It has individualized solutions for industries that deal with B2B clients, such as telecom, financial services, and manufacturing. Up-and-coming businesses can choose Salesforce’s small business solutions to help manage growth. Sales, marketing, service, tech, and e-commerce teams can work together to nurture leads and clients.

Each function’s team is able to see the same data about your company’s customers. When customer service reports repeat problems with a client’s experience, account executives will know not to push more products for now. Salesforce has various apps to coincide with the buyer’s journey, from initial interest to repeat business. All departments can analyze identical trends to identify strengths and opportunities to retain and increase market share.

For your staff, Salesforce offers Einstein AI. This is a built-in tool that takes care of repetitive tasks so your team can concentrate on the meaningful parts of their jobs. Whether employees are in the office or working remotely, they can communicate and collaborate effectively with each other. Customer records, reports, plans, and discussions can all be found in one location.

6. KnowBe4

CompTIA reports that phishing scams contribute to 80% of security incidents in organizations. As hackers develop more sophisticated emails and texts, employees can be tricked into giving away confidential information.

KnowBe4 trains your staff to recognize phishing, domain spoofs, and social engineering exploits. The application can identify weak passwords, twin domains, and whether your current network security measures can block ransomware attacks.

These capabilities can pinpoint weaknesses in your company’s security and employees’ knowledge. KnowBe4 can scale according to how many employees you have. Or if your company handles network security for others, you can use the channel partnership package.

As an automated training solution, KnowBe4 increases your team’s awareness of attackers’ methods. Employees learn through simulated attacks, and you get to see the results so you can track the training’s effectiveness. Over time, your organization becomes more secure by teaching staff what to do with suspicious emails or links.


Your B2B company needs these software solutions in its tech stack

Hosting application after application on local servers is no longer practical. It’s too easy to run out of space and go over budget.

While your staff can access the same data using old-school methods, why risk miscommunication?

Cloud-based software solutions solve both problems while ensuring your company has the tools it needs to compete.

Image Credit: rasik; pexels; thank you!

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at

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Data Privacy – Why Users Should Care and How the Tech Industry Should Safeguard Data – ReadWrite



Nigel Cannings

It is probably obvious to most people that certain personal information should be tightly protected — especially bank details, health records, and passwords. The motivation might be to protect us from criminal activity, embarrassment, or just because it is not anyone else’s business. Users should care about data privacy — and the tech industry should safeguard your data.

It’s essential to understand that ALL personal data is now the fuel of the digital economy.

And that means that there is an entire industry worth billions of dollars devoted to finding everything out about YOU. Your friends. Your shopping habits. Where you live and who you live with. Everything is up for grabs and harnessed for one simple reason.  To make it easier to target you with adverts persuading you to buy things you might not purchase otherwise. 

Data Privacy – Why Users Should Care and How the Tech Industry Should Safeguard Data 

We all know about adverts that follow us around the Internet (a process known as remarketing). Many people have stories about how a conversation with someone about buying something or maybe seeing a movie, somehow led to an advert about it.

They are convinced that their phone is listening to everything they are saying. And, your phone IS listening – but not for the reasons you think. Actually, it’s down to the incredible power of today’s predictive algorithms. They probably know more about what you will want to do or buy next than you do. Based on billions and billions of interactions observed from other people just like you.

Some big life and tech industry questions

The big question is: if you know that your “important” information is protected, does tracking matter? Should you care if your other data is being used to track you? Especially if it results in free or low-priced apps that make your life easier or more pleasurable. Be it Facebook, Instagram, Gmail or Uber.

The first issue is simply a very human one. “I’m just not sure that I’m that comfortable with someone having access to everything that I’m doing.” No one reads 1984 and thinks that seems like a wonderful way to live. It just feels wrong.

There are real and practical data issues that need to be addressed.

There is a lot more at play than simply being sold a new appliance. We now know that democracy itself can be manipulated by the very technology that also sells us washing powder.

1960’s Simulamatics Corporation

The idea is not new. It actually goes back to the early 60s and the rise of the Simulamatics Corporation. It came up with the idea of identifying groups of people and computerizing them so that their behavior could be predicted.

The computer power and availability of data was a fraction of that available today. But the idea was there. And if you believe the Simulmatics Corporation, their data and predictions were enough to forecast and swing elections. (For more information on the dawn of this type of data science, read the fascinating If Then by Jill Lepore.)

Cambridge Analytica

Fast forward to the present day, and we are still feeling the effects of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Where the process of mining publicly available data, made it possible to push one country to break with its largest trading partner. And another to elect the worst or best President it has ever had.   

One wryly amusing side story from the Brexit campaign is that contrary to popular belief, Cambridge Analytica had no involvement in that campaign at all, according to a three-year probe by the Information Commissioner.

However, they did find that “there are systemic vulnerabilities in our democratic systems” caused by the availability of personal data. That alone should be enough to make us demand that our data is better protected and regulated.

Things are changing. Slowly. And not always in ways where the motives are entirely transparent.

Convenience – not always benevolent

Take two recent examples – Apple vs. Facebook and Google against everyone else.

Apple vs. Facebook 

In its latest update to its mobile operating system, iOS 14, Apple has released a new security feature that centers around the IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers — Look it up — too good to miss).

Oh, Joy!! This is a unique identifier for every iPhone and iPad, which allows advertisers to track the effectiveness of their advertising. Apple has decided to make this an opt-in feature for users. It supplies a one-time pop-up box that asks users whether they want to be tracked by Facebook or not. Verizon has made it so on their phone system — you can opt-out.

On the face of it, it seems obvious, why would you wouldn’t want to be tracked?

Mark Zuckerberg, not perhaps someone you would normally feel sympathy with, says this change “threatens the personalized ads that millions of small businesses rely on to find and reach customers.”

The reality is that Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, and Apple owns iMessage. 

Facebook sees the changes, not as a way to protect consumers, but to cripple Facebook. “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own.” 

Google vs. Everyone Else

Google controls the world’s most popular browser, Chrome, and has announced that it is implanting sweeping changes to “third-party cookies.”

These are the nasties that track you across the internet. When your browser knows that you were recently on Site A, looking at a particular product, it can shove an advert at you to tempt you to buy the same thing. 

The proposal is that these cookies will be replaced with a type of group ID. This identifies you as part of a particular “tribe” of people who Google thinks have similar interests. Google will supposedly stop third-party cookies — SOMETIME NEXT YEAR — 2022. They will already have all they need in their data storage by then.

We only have to wait another year for the implementation by Google

It sounds fantastic because third-party tracking is considered to be one of the most intrusive aspects of web browsing. Why? Because it sprays your data around the internet in an unregulated manner, leaking privacy with every new site you visit.

So — after another year — the change will dramatically limit the ability of almost every company on the internet to target specific ads at you. Because they will no longer be able to rely on collecting data second-hand through third-party cookies.  

Best for Google

Except for Google. Who is one of the largest collectors of *first* party data on the internet? Google collects data from your searches through Gmail and Google Maps. If the company’s ability to target you is better, and everyone else’s is worse, surely this means that more money gets spent on Google ads, at the expense of other advertisers?

What both cases show is that it is unlikely big tech companies will act in your best interest when it comes to the management of personal data.

Especially if that personal data is what fuels their bottom line. Is a degree of regulation and perhaps some technology rethinking needed?

Europe has led the way to protect private data — GDPR

Europe has led the way in terms of the regulation of private data, and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) is probably the most comprehensive data privacy law ever enacted.

But does GDPR have any real teeth?

It is estimated that $9 billion was spent in preparation for GDPR. For the last calendar year, DLA Piper estimates that fines across the whole of Europe stand at about 114m Euros.

With the enormous focus on data privacy — that fines can be up to 4% of global turnover, it doesn’t seem that GDPR hasn’t quite got into its stride yet.

Data Privacy – Consumer — why you should care. in the

The future of data privacy probably rests in the hands of the consumer. And the willingness of all of us to pay for the services that are subsidized by the money made from our data.

Tim Berners-Lee, famously the inventor of the World Wide Web, has gone on a mission to reclaim personal data with the idea of data “Pods.” These pods put personal data is in the hands of the individual, and are only handed out on a very selective basis. For this to work, we need to rearchitect the internet. And consider how far convenience trumps privacy.  

Think about something as simple as email. Who doesn’t love being able to go on to Gmail and search for email? Or start a new email and have Google suggest whole sentences for you?

All of this connection relies (today) on Google having full access to your data.

What about Alexa? How great to walk into the kitchen, and switch on the radio. But more than 20 times a day, that same Alexa device is activating and sending data to Amazon accidentally: And somewhere in an office block in Romania, someone is listening to it.

To secure our data, we must start to think more about local processing of data. Including searchable encryption and homomorphic data processing. All ways of minimizing data leakage. It can all be done. And we can do much of it right now. 

But it needs someone to pay. For all our talk about how we want our data to stay “ours,” it is our data that is picking up the tab right now.

Image Credit: andres ayrton; pexels; thank you!

Nigel Cannings

CTO at Intelligent Voice

Nigel Cannings is the CTO at Intelligent Voice. He has over 25 years’ experience in both Law and Technology, is the founder of Intelligent Voice Ltd and a pioneer in all things voice. Nigel is also a regular speaker at industry events not limited to NVIDIA, IBM, HPE and AI Financial Summits.

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