The Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) this week released a report alleging 10 widely used apps have been sharing users’ personal data with third parties, without their consent.
The report names and shames dating apps including Tinder, Grindr and Happn, as well as period trackers and an app that helps Muslims find the direction of Makkah for their daily prayers.
This is the most personal of personal data. We’re talking about users’ sexuality, religion, health and even drug habits, as well as precise locations.
It’s extremely likely these apps are indeed helping build profiles of their users for targeted advertising — which could conceivably be used in a way that is manipulative or discriminatory.
It’s fucked, I get that. In fact, it’s illegal.
But, can anyone really say they’re surprised?
A few years ago, I might have been shocked to hear that my personal data was being used in ways I didn’t necessarily consent to. But now, isn’t this the status quo?
It’s been repeated, again and again, that no service is free. If you’re not paying for an app financially, you’re paying for it in some other way — probably, by compromising your privacy.
I don’t know for certain my period tracker is sending my health data somewhere suspect. But I’ve always kinda assumed it is. Am I going to stop using it? Probably not.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on the side of the tech giants here. The NCC report is titled Out of Control, and I think that pretty much sums it up.
Perhaps my own oh-so-cynical reaction goes to show just how ingrained this practice has become.
“The massive commercial surveillance going on throughout the adtech industry is systematically at odds with our fundamental rights and freedoms,” said Finn Myrstrad, head of digital at the NCC and author of the report.
If that’s going to change, there has to be an upheaval, and it has to be on a global scale.
Until then, it’s up to us.
Those fundamental rights and freedoms come at a price. In this case — and I hate to say it — that price your free access to a dating app.
For many, it’s a price that’s just too high.
You can download the full report (in English) here.