Evidon mobile research was recently featured in the Financial Times in an article titled "Health app users have new symptom to fear." We scanned 20 of the top health, wellness, and fitness apps and looked for the presence of third-party data collection technologies. The results varied, but they indicated in many cases an active practice of sharing user data with third parties. Among the top 20 apps, as many as 70 third parties were present, collecting data about the app users.
The WebMD Health app TrackerMap™. See below for all the maps from the study.
These companies are typically advertising and analytics companies, who attempt to better match advertisiments to users who will buy; and who work to help app developers increase functionality and usability, respectively. It's a common practice for these companies to make these data available to whoever finds it valuable, however, so any number of companies may acquire this data eventually. The Financial Times asked the WebMD team about this directly, who "said it did not allow third-party companies to combine the consumer data collected about its users with other profile information or use it beyond its site." Our research cannot speak to exactly what data is shared, but the breadth of the data collection is certainly a surprise to most app users, particularly since there is a lack of clear disclosure about the frequency and type of data collected.
Evidon TrackerMaps™ for the Leading Health, Wellness, and Fitness Mobile Applications