A recent report from the Norwegian Consumer Council alleges that dating and fertility apps are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to sharing private user data with ad firms.
A recent report from the Norwegian Consumer Council claims that dating and fertility apps are regularly sharing user data with advertising firms. The report claims that smartphone users these days have very little hope of escaping ad tech’s profiling systems which are prevalent across nearly all apps these days. The report states:
These actors, who are part of what we call the digital marketing and adtech industry, use this information to track us over time and across devices, in order to create comprehensive profiles about individual consumers. In turn, these profiles and groups can be used to personalize and target advertising, but also for other purposes such as discrimination, manipulation, and exploitation.
Although the adtech industry operates across different media such as websites, smart devices, and mobile apps, we chose to focus on adtech in apps. In order to expose how large parts of this vast industry works, we commissioned the cybersecurity company Mnemonic to perform a technical analysis of the data traffic from ten popular mobile apps. Because of the scope of tests, size of the third parties that were observed receiving data, and popularity of the apps, we regard the findings from these tests to be representative of widespread practices in the adtech industry.
A majority of the apps tested by the consumer council found were found to be transmitting data to “unexpected third parties” without informing users about who was receiving their personal info. Apps for tracking fertility and ovulation, along with dating apps, were consistently the worst offenders. The council writes that: “The evidence keeps mounting against the commercial surveillance systems at the heart of online advertising,” adding that the current situation is “completely out of control, harming consumers, societies, and businesses.”
The council goes on to state:
The multitude of violations of fundamental rights are happening at a rate of billions of times per second, all in the name of profiling and targeting advertising. It is time for a serious debate about whether the surveillance-driven advertising systems that have taken over the internet, and which are economic drivers of misinformation online, is a fair trade-off for the possibility of showing slightly more relevant ads.
The comprehensive digital surveillance happening across the ad tech industry may lead to harm to both individuals, to trust in the digital economy, and to democratic institutions.
Read the report from the Norwegian Consumer Council in full here.