Whenever we use apps on our phones, our data is up for grabs. Brands like Facebook run their whole business model around selling ads – and our personal data makes it easy for them to do that. And now thanks to Apple’s new privacy labels, we know exactly what data each app collects, from name, age and address, to much more private data such as your weight or sexual activity.
With Data Privacy Day taking place on Thursday 28th January, as part of the new Health App Index, researchers at Uswitch have taken 15 health apps and discovered just how much information each app is squirrelling away.
So how do the most-searched health apps stack up when it comes to data collection?
MyFitnessPal – 20 out of 24 data points
MyFitnessPal tracks diet and exercise, gamifying the experience to motivate users to scan the barcodes of various food items into the app’s large pre-existing database. The app collects the most data out of the whole list, ranging from name and age, all the way through to more private information such as body mass index (BMI) and fitness level.
Fitbit – 18 out of 22 data points
Fitbit dominates the fitness app market with almost 60% of the share of all users who use fitness-tracking apps. It also dominates the list of companies who collect personal data from their users, collecting 18 out of 22 items of data which include social media information and female health.
Strava – 17 out of 22 data points
Strava has almost 50 million users across the globe and has a total of 3 billion activity uploads, meaning they hold a lot of data about each of their users. It’s one of the most popular apps on the market and collects a whole range of data including location and email address.
Flo – 15 out of 22 data points
Fertility app Flo is used by more than 30 million people around the world to monitor their feminine health, but recently the app has been in the news regarding privacy concerns.
Out of all the period tracking apps in the study, Flo collects the most data with 15 out of 22 data points which include mental wellbeing and sexual activity.
Headspace – 14 out of 22 data points
Headspace was one of the first mindfulness and meditation apps on the market, reaching more than 62 million users across the globe. The app is packed full of audio meditation sessions that users can tap into, but it’s also collecting plenty of data, too.
Of the mindfulness apps in the study, Headspace asks for the most personal user data with 14 out of 22 data points collected, including location and family/marital status.
Catherine Hiley, mobiles expert at Uswitch.com said: “While we can’t be sure of the true intentions of each and every app, there are some steps users can take to better protect their personal data. “Before you install any app, check the reviews to find out what other users have said about it. If you’re not sure, don’t download and install.
“If an app asks for permissions that it really shouldn’t need to function, then you should question the reason for it asking to collect that data. For example, why should Headspace or Flo need to know your location?”