Best Practices to Guarantee User Privacy on Your Progressive Web App (PWA)
PWAs are a web-based alternative to native apps. They offer similar functionality but take up less storage. As more companies create their own PWAs, user privacy on these platforms is called into question. While there are risks, following the best practices of PWA development will bolster security and increase user confidence.
Do you remember the old philosophical question, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?” Well, the 21st-century update to that saying can be, “If a business opens for customers but doesn’t launch an app, does it actually exist?”
Whether working in a giant multinational corporation or simply trying to get your own small business off the ground, having an app is an essential link to your customers. Companies without apps sacrifice the opportunity to grab a slice of the growing e-commerce pie. An app for business can be one of two types: A native app, downloaded through a third-party app store, or a progressive web app (PWA), which makes a website function like an app through a web browser.
In this article, we will understand how PWAs differ from native apps and also the best practices for ensuring user privacy on a PWA.
What is a Progressive Web App
Threats to User Privacy on Progressive Web Apps
Ever since they were first developed in 2015, PWAs have been steadily gaining popularity. However, with new technology comes new threats for its users. And while PWAs can accurately recreate the experience of using a native app for users, does it also protect their privacy with the same degree of fastidiousness?
Just like it says in the name, PWAs are web applications. This means developers should be on the lookout for any form of web-based cyber attack. The security design of PWAs has two unique vulnerabilities: The manifest and the service workers.
Manifests are JSON files containing all the HTML information for a PWA to be downloaded and presented on a user’s device. Cyber attackers could use cross-site scripting attacks to inject malicious scripts into a PWA manifest.
Service workers are features like push notifications or caching, which allow PWAs to mimic native apps. They leave PWAs exposed to “man-in-the-middle” cyber attacks, hijack control of service workers, and tamper with inbound and outbound information.
However, despite these concerns, PWAs are mostly safe to operate and use as long as the developers follow certain best practices.
Tips For Ensuring User Privacy on Progressive Web Apps
PWA developers are responsible for ensuring their users’ safety. Security measures should be baked into any PWA right from conception. Here are some tips and best practices, as suggested by the World Wide Web Consortium, that PWA developers can follow to ensure user privacy is respected.
Privacy by Design
There are a set of principles in PWA development collectively known as “Privacy by Design.” Some of the key tenets of Privacy by Design include:
- Preventing breaches before they happen, rather than containing them after the fact
- Respecting user privacy by default and embedding it into the PWA’s design
- Implement end-to-end security that protects customers in every interaction with the PWA
- Make privacy settings easily visible and transparent so that they can be altered at the user’s will
By proactively considering privacy as a priority, PWA developers lay the groundwork for a much more secure app.
In the context of PWA security, user-centric design is meant to grant app users greater control over how their data gets used. This begins with fostering users’ understanding of a PWA’s privacy features. Informed users make better decisions about what data and information to share with a PWA. Some of the best practices in user-centric PWA design are:
- Avoid unnecessary prompts as they detract from the user experience and may cause misunderstanding among users
- Bypass the need for dialogs and permission requests with a PWA that elicits active consent from its users
- Allow users ease of access to revisit and adjust their privacy settings at will
- Be completely transparent about exactly where users’ data will be stored and for how long
Collecting Users’ Personal Data
A PWA cannot run without collecting and transmitting user data. Doing so makes it liable for how the data is used from that point. There are two essential tips to keep in mind when it comes to collecting data through a PWA.
- Always request the minimum amount of data required to provide users with a service
- Retain only the minimum amount of data for the shortest possible time
User Data Confidentiality
A PWA needs to be secure from web-based attacks. Using HTTPS instead of HTTP as the communication protocol between the server and browser secures data better. The stored user data should also be protected behind encryptions and cryptographic protocols like SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security).
In the big, bad world of the internet, privacy and security should never be taken lightly. The rise in the use of VPNs has shown how users are concerned about these issues while online. Using a VPN can sometimes affect the functionality of a PWA. Most people who browse using a VPN are doing so because they want to protect the privacy of their data. But a well-designed PWA that emphasizes protecting user privacy is effectively as safe as any VPN.
To build a fully functional and secure PWA, it’s advisable to seek out expert help. A custom software development company like fram^ can help you design a PWA without compromising on either user experience or user privacy.
The key to a successful PWA is a base of regular users. Creating a safe online space for your customers will keep them coming back time after time!