Oct 30, 2020 - Technology

Study: Facebook and dating apps grab the most personal user data

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new study says Facebook and dating apps collect the most personal information about users, though a wide range of apps are collecting more data than one would expect.

Why it matters: It's not always intuitive which apps are grabbing data. And even when a site or app doesn't explicitly collect a piece of information, it can still infer that information from other data it does collect.

By the numbers: The study, conducted by London-based cybersecurity firm Clario, found that Facebook collects more than 70% of all the information it can legally collect. Second on the list is Facebook's Instagram app, which collects more than 58% of all available data — including info like hobbies, height, weight and sexual orientation.

  • The next most grabby services were dating apps Tinder and Grindr, with Tinder collecting 56% of such info, including the details you'd expect a dating site to know, but also stuff you might not think of, such as whether you own a pet.
  • Retail sites, even Amazon, explicitly collected less info than many other apps. But of course, they get lots of data from what you browse and buy — information they can use to infer all kinds of other data.

Between the lines: Some data makes sense when collected by one app, but less so for other types of programs. For example, it’s not surprising that exercise companies collect information on a person’s weight — but Instagram does, too.

What they’re saying: “It’s no secret that companies trade in their users’ data,” Clario CIO Alex Maklakov said in a statement.

  • “We’re all guilty of accepting the terms and conditions without perhaps reading them as closely as we should. But we want everyone to know what information apps are taking from and storing on their customers so that people can feel in control online.”

Methodology: Clario said it looked at 48 popular apps across various sectors and ascertains which permissions they asked consumers for in their terms and conditions and privacy agreements.

  • Clario then ranked the companies based on 34 different data points.

Yes, but: Terms of service reserve the right to collect data, but users don’t always provide it and companies don’t always collect everything they say they might.

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