Data Regulations For Software Developers

8th Light University title slide with the title text: "Ya Gotta Keep 'Em Regulated: GDPR, HIPAA, and taking legal requirements into account as a developer." Kaitlyn Conilio, Senior Crafter, with a circular headshot of Kaitlyn with her cat lunging into frame.

Kaitlyn Concilio

February 28, 2023

Programming is easy. I mean, it's not, but the theory of programming is easy: You tell the computer what to do, the computer does it.

When something goes wrong, it's almost always because you (or someone further down the stack) didn't tell the computer properly. You see, there are rules that must be followed.

When programming software, programmers encounter a number of different rules, from those inherent in the platform to the organization’s rules around everything from formatting to PRs, ad infinitum. One area of the rules that tends to be glossed over by individual contributors and managers alike is, oddly enough, the Law™.

Yes, everyone knows you can't program a murderbot or Office Space yourself a few fractions of a penny on every transaction, but by and large it's assumed that if a feature or product comes across your desk, it's either a) been thoroughly vetted, or b) resembles something else that's been done before (in or out of the organization). Therefore, it must be legal!

Except ... not always. Everyone has their own sphere of knowledge, and those planning projects might not know much about the legalities of data management or how it's implemented in your organization. Or the laws might be different in your state than wherever the feature you're "emulating" originates from, or maybe the laws have changed since it was rolled out.

User Your Superpowers

Don't be afraid of legalese! As a developer, your keen senses of specificity and precision will aid you greatly when trying to parse the law. And, you know, your organization likely has legal advice you can avail yourself of to make sure that you're understanding things properly. But just like with code, the more knowledge you have going in, the better and more productive the conversation will be for everyone.

It's incumbent on developers, from a legal and ethical standpoint, to ensure that what they're working on is legal. Developers are the ones who are building it, and they owe it to the users, the organization, and themselves to make sure that they're doing everything properly.

What follows is a series of short (lol) articles that discuss the US and EU regulatory frameworks, and a brief overview of some of the most common laws you should be aware of.

About 8th Light University

8th Light University (8LU) is a virtual event series curated by 8th Light, a global software consultancy that partners with clients in creating software solutions. Topics focus on improving the craft of software product, design, and development. Software professionals of all skill levels are welcome! Watch past event videos on YouTube, join us at our next 8LU event, or sign up for our newsletter to to find out about upcoming events.

Kaitlyn Concilio

Lead Crafter

Kaitlyn Concilio brings more than a decade of experience delivering quality software products, with expertise in implementing accessibility for challenging content.