A recent study revealed that apps such as Tinder, OkCupid, and Grindr are sharing data gathered from people’s personal devices to 3rd party marketing and advertising companies. Researchers from the Norwegian Consumers Council discovered that these companies might be violating privacy laws such as GDPR. The new study reviewed the most popular Android apps and identified shadowy entities that are receiving user’s personal data. Whether or not the data is used for good or bad intentions doesn’t matter. The fact is that it violates many privacy laws, and now the authorities must get involved to investigate the shady practices of the online advertising industry.
What Information Is Being Shared?
The information being shared by each of the apps that were studied does vary. Grindr, a popular dating app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people, was found sending tracking codes and user IP addresses to various 3rd parties. These companies could use this information to determine a user’s sexual orientation and discover their location. This can put many users at risk, especially with Grindr users knowing nothing about it.
The study also reported OkCupid was sharing a user’s ethnicity and other personal profile questions to firms that assist in marketing. The app has released a significantly extensive list with advertising and analytics partners who they could be sharing your data with. With all of this tracking and sharing of users data, these entities could learn alot about a user without them realizing.
It was discovered that some other apps embedded advertising tech into the app to help track app use. This embedded feature usually will have a tracking code which is unique for each mobile phone. The ad companies can then take the tracking code and build a profile with data from the device across several apps. This may not include all useful information about the companies, but it does make it easier to identify individuals based on the data collected.
Here’s an image summarizing the app-specific findings.
Companies in the advertising industry are collecting data from people’s smart devices through social media, web browsing, and several other places within devices. When used accordingly, these companies can determine more than you think. They can learn what we do in our daily lives, our desires, and what our fears are. It’s scary to think that people’s mobile devices can share this much information to advertising companies and leave users thinking about how safe they are on these dating apps.
Norwegian Group Complaint
The group filed a complaint against Grindr and other tech companies for potentially violating data protection laws. As well as many Americans are writing to the attorney general of California to investigate the companies further. Something needs to be done to make sure that privacy laws are enforced and advertising companies are collecting the appropriate data.
Match, who is the parent company of Tinder and many other dating apps, made a statement that they worked with outside companies to assist providing services, and only shared data that was necessary for that service. They also said that they followed all privacy laws and enforced strict contracts with vendors to ensure the security of data.
Grindr states that they do not sell your personal data, and many users of the app trust the company. They believe that Grindr will keep their data protected, and will not be sharing it with advertising or marketing companies.
Clearly, this study proves that these companies may be sharing more data from our devices than people thought. There is little users can do to protect themselves from data sharing, and preventing the data from getting into the hands of these tracking companies. Authorities must take action to protect consumers from the exploitation of personal data. Companies that rely heavily on digital advertising need to find an alternative solution to help improve the online advertising system and keep users protected.
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