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How much of your data are health apps sapping?

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It was Data Privacy Day yesterday (28 January), and as I’m always wanging on about how terrible companies are at protecting our data, I’m not going to stop now.

Normally however, if we report on a large data breach, or even a small one, the chances are it won’t have affected you or your privacy personally, it’s just yet another unfortunate thing to read about.

But, how many of us use apps? By 2022, the number of apps being downloaded daily will exceed 250 billion, and considering in 2020 that number was 592 million, it’s a pretty large and speedy leap to say the least.

At the moment, a lot of us are trying to jump on the health band wagon, as let’s face it, there’s nothing better to do. And for those on the opposing team who opted for low key agoraphobia and alcoholism, I see you friends.

Personally, I naively did my fitness kick during lockdown 1.0, then lost all motivation/general will to live when I realised I may well be retired by the time this situation ends.

In my defence I had every intention to start again this week, but on Monday morning I got up too late for the yoga I’d sworn to do the night before and subsequently had a Snickers for breakfast. So, it’s going well.

My failings at health aside, I, like many others have downloaded various health/fitness apps over the last few months in a bid to get me motivated, whether they were used or not is another matter, but we aren’t here to judge. But how much of our information are these apps actually taking on?

Now, thanks to Apple’s new privacy labels, we can tell exactly what data each app collects, from our name, age and address, to much more private data such as your weight or sexual activity.

As part of the new Health App Index, researchers at Uswitch have taken various health apps and discovered just how much information each app is squirrelling away, so how do some of the most popular fitness apps stack up?

Drum roll please. The worst offender? MyFitnessPal. Rackng up 20 out of 24 ‘data points’. This 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.  

In second place, we have Fitbit, with 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’. 

And coming in at third place, there is Strava, with 17 out of 22 data points. Not great when Strava has almost 50 million users across the globe and a total of three billion activity uploads. It’s one of the most popular apps on the market and collects a whole range of data including location and email address. 

Although users own the rights to all of their workouts, posts and routes, Strava’s privacy policy states that it reserves the right to use it, which has understandably confused some users in the past

There are other apps that made it onto the list, but unfortunately, word counts exist.

If you’d like to know what other apps are on the naughty list, you can read the full piece here, where you will also find useful tips and insight from mobiles expert at Uswitch.com, Catherine Hiley, who gives us her tips on how to limit the amount of our data these apps are hoovering up to ultimately help us regain a little control – something I think we could all do with right now.

This editorial originally appeared in the Data Centre Review Newsletter January 29, 2021. To ensure you receive these editorials direct to your inbox, you can subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

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