The phrase "If you're not paying for the product, you are the product" has become symbolic of the way people interact with major social media corporations that primarily operate by collecting data and capturing user attention, which are then made available to advertisers.
A recent research by The Money Mongers found that 76% of the top 100 apps on the Apple App store collect and share their user data in some or the other form. The report found that over half of these companies share their users’ data with third parties while nearly three-quarters collect data for their own benefit.
Here's what the report found about these invasive apps and their data collecting practices.
'Meta is the most data-hungry company'
Meta stands out as the most data-intensive company, as per the report. Its applications, such as Instagram, Facebook, Threads, and Messenger, gather a significant 86% of a user's digital data, surpassing their competitors by a substantial margin. In contrast, X (formally known as Twitter) collects 50% data, while Google collects 43%.
The Money Mongers report found that 66% of the apps collect location data while 64% collect contact information, both to be shared with third parties. On the other hand, diagnostic, sensitive information, financial information, health, and fitness are the least collected data.
Apart from the social media apps, Lyft, Uber Eats and Google lead in collecting and sharing user data with third parties.
However, not all the data collected is shared with third party apps. Many of the apps (72%) also collect it for their own benefits such as to sending promotional messages or improving their apps.
Among the apps which collect data for their own benefit, 36% of them are privy to our browsing history across various apps and websites. Here too, contact information remains prime data target, with 92% of these apps collecting it.
Our data poses risk
An average person uses approximately 25 apps regularly on their phones. Researchers have found that most of these regularly used apps continuously track users' locations throughout the day.
According to a report by Time, law enforcements have also used these data to infer people’s immigration status, religion, and sexual orientation. A Vice report highlighted how federal agencies obtained location data from Muslim prayer and Quran apps as part of what were claimed to be counterterrorism initiatives.
In India too, the data collected by the many fraudulent loan apps ended up becoming the reason for abuse and harassment of many who engaged with them. These apps were using the borrowers' contact lists to blackmail them by sending manipulated explicit photos.
Last year, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology identified and blocked 348 mobile applications that were collecting users’ data and transmitting it in an unauthorised manner to servers abroad for profiling.
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?