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The 10 Most Invasive Apps on the Internet

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We’ve all gotten used to the apps and websites that help us run our lives. While they do make things more convenient, they’re also collecting huge amounts of our data. You may have accepted the fact that you have to give up some personal info to use your favorite apps and services. But you should know just how much data they’re collecting and what it’s being used for.

Why are apps tracking you?

Before diving into the most privacy-invasive apps on the web, let’s figure out why app developers are tracking your info in the first place.

The number-one reason apps ask you to give over your data is to make your user experience better. If developers know how you use their apps, they can more easily spot bugs and come up with fixes.

Making apps as user-friendly as possible is a worthwhile reason to collect data. But many apps also collect information for advertising purposes. They collect and then sell your data to third parties, which use it to target you with ads specific to you.

Apps share a variety of information about you, including:

  • Purchasing info
  • Browsing history
  • Personal data
  • Your location
  • Search history
  • User content
  • Financial info
  • Health and fitness info

Some apps collect info about you but don’t share it with a third party. Other apps don’t track any personal data at all. Before you install and start using popular apps, it pays to know just how much you’re giving up to use them.

The 10 apps that are tracking you the most

Security company pCloud did a study to see which of the 100 most popular apps around the world are most invasive when it comes to user privacy. They looked at how much data apps collect overall, how much is collected for selling to others and selling to you, and how much they track your actions. The firm was able to carry out this study by relying on the “Privacy Nutrition Labels” that Apple introduced in the App Store. 

Some of the biggest takeaways from the pCloud study are:

  • 52% of apps share your data with third parties. The biggest offenders are Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Uber Eats sharing 79%, 57%, 50%, and 50% of your data with third parties, respectively.
  • 80% of apps collect your data to use for their own benefit. Facebook, Instagram, and Klarna collect the most data to market their own services, at 86%, 86%, and 64% respectively.
  • Food delivery apps like GrubHub and UberEats collect a surprising amount of data, and are some of the worst when it comes to collecting data for internal marketing purposes.

By combining their results on apps that collect the most data to share with third parties and those that collect the most for internal use, pCloud ranked the most invasive of the 100+ apps they analyzed. The top 10 are:

  1. Instagram: Instagram was ranked the worst, at 62% of data tracked.
  2. Facebook: Facebook tracks slightly less than Instagram, at 55%, despite being owned by the same company.
  3. UberEats: The food delivery app was ranked third, at 50% of personal data shared.
  4. Trainline: The app for train travel in Europe collects 43% of personal data.
  5. eBay: eBay, LinkedIn, and Twitter have a three-way tie, each collecting 40% of personal data.
  6. LinkedIn: LinkedIn collects 40% of personal data.
  7. Twitter: Twitter collects 40% of personal data.
  8. YouTube: The YouTube app collects 36% of personal data, as does the YouTube Music app.
  9. YouTube Music: Tied with YouTube, YouTube music collects 36% of personal data.
  10.  Grubhub: The second food delivery app to crack the top 10, Grubhub collects 36% of personal data.

The least invasive apps

While the researchers behind the pCloud study were looking at the most invasive apps, they also noted the safest apps. Their top 10 list of the apps that track 0% of personal data includes:

  1. Signal
  2. Clubhouse
  3. Netflix
  4. Microsoft Teams
  5. Google Classroom
  6. Shazam
  7. Etsy
  8. Skype
  9. Telegram
  10. Boohoo

How to protect yourself from app tracking

If the apps you use are collecting too much data about you, you can take steps to safeguard your privacy. The simplest thing you can do is not download or use those apps, but considering how popular they are, you may not consider that option.

When you download a new app, you should do a privacy run-through. After creating or signing into an account, head to your settings or preferences and look over everything to do with security and privacy. For many services, you can switch off targeted ads so you won’t see advertising that’s based on your collected data.

Another tip is to turn off location services on your phone. This will prevent all apps on your device from trying to access your location.

Check the permissions you have allowed for apps as well. Some apps ask for access to one or more of the following features on your phone:

  • Contacts
  • Camera
  • Camera roll or gallery
  • Microphone
  • Location
  • Text messages
  • Files and media
  • Call logs

Only grant apps permissions that are essential to their functioning. Some phones let you enable one-time access to these features, or only activate when the app is in use. Try to use one-time permission access on your phone as much as possible.

Keep your date private

If you’re comfortable with sharing a lot of personal data with app developers, then you have nothing to worry about. But most people aren’t, and would prefer more privacy. Read the terms of service and privacy policy information before downloading apps or signing up for accounts so you know exactly what you’re getting into. You can also take some of the steps mentioned above to make your data more secure.

You don’t have to give up your personal info if you don’t want to, but you’ll have to be on your guard.

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