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The Most Invasive Apps on Your Phone

Throughout 2020 and continuing into 2021, privacy online had been a huge topic globally, many smart-device users are becoming increasingly concerned with the amount of personal data is being shared when using their usual apps and websites. Earlier in the year we looked into the Messaging apps that hold your personal data, and compared the differences in the amount of data collection between some of the most popular choices following the announcement of WhatsApp's new privacy terms.

Apple recently updated their privacy policy, which allows the public to gain easier access to information on how different apps use our data and more clarity on where our data actually goes. Experts in online privacy, Cloud have utilised the new Apple privacy labels that are featured in the App Store, and released some key findings surrounding privacy, as well as which apps are the 'most invasive', which refers to those that share the largest amount of personal data with third parties, as well as gathering information for the company's own benefit and use.

The pCloud study revealed that around 80% of apps do use user data to market their own products, within and out of their app, such as advertisements elsewhere or in-app promotions. Further, pCloud found that social media apps as a whole were the worst in terms of collecting data for their own marketing, food delivery apps are the worst among those for collecting your data for internal marketing purposes. Although surprisingly, in food apps, Just Eat, Grubhub and My McDonald’s are the only three across the study that reportedly dont share any user data, although they do use data for location tracking and their own marketing needs.

Many will find it unsurprising that Instagram is at the top of the list, pCloud state that "Instagram shares 79% of your data including browsing history and personal information with others online". There are over 1 billion monthly active users on Instagram, and being so high on the list for the amount of data collected and shared makes the scale of data collection enormous. The collected or shared data can include a wide range of information such as purchasing information, personal data, and browsing history, which likely explains the unsettling ratio of promoted/non-promoted posts that come up on users' feeds.

The second worst app according to the blog post based on Apple's new privacy labels, for sharing the personal data of its users was Instagram’s parent company, Facebook. While 22% behind Instagram, Facebook still reportedly gives away 57% of its users' data to third party companies, this can include accosted companies. 3rd, 4th and 5th top spots for most data collected by apps that are sharing user data with third parties are held by LinkedIn, Uber (both at 50%) and Trainline at 43% respectively.

Unlike user privacy-friendly food apps mentioned earlier, Uber Eats and Deliveroo scored badly, both featuring in the top 10 alongside LinkedIn, Trainline, YouTube, Duolingo and eBay. Many will be user prised to find out that YouTube collects are shares 42% of your personal data, this data goes on to inform the types of adverts you’ll (very frequently) see before and during videos, as well as still ads across the app. This personal data can also be sold to brands who’ll be able to target you on other social media platforms.

Some apps sit alongside another in their attempt to move away from vast data collection, privacy-centred messaging apps Signal and Telegram, were among the least invasive, collected 0% data, as well as online streaming services BBC iPlayer and Netflix. Among the list of 0% data shared to 3rd parties or collected for marketing purposes, was Boohoo, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype.

For some the release of the new Apple Privacy Labels will mean they will be doing some "spring cleaning" across their apps and trying to move away from those among the most invasive. While it is always important to ensure you know what you are agreeing to when signing the user agreement, and checking back every now and then, these metrics may not be as scary as they look. Some people simply do not mind third-parties seeing what they have bought or clicked, but have a stronger preference for what personal data of theirs is being shared. It is also key to remember that the rankings shown are based on what app developers have chosen to share with Apple.

Image Credit; pCloud

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