FitnessKeeper, the company behind running app Runkeeper, is in hot water in Europe. The company will receive a formal complaint on Friday from the Norwegian Consumer Council for breaching European data protection laws. It turns out that Runkeeper tracks its users’ location all the time – not just when the app is active – and sends that data to advertisers.
The NCC, a consumer rights watchdog, is conducting an investigation into 20 apps’ terms and conditions to see if the apps do what their permissions say they do and to monitor data flows. Tinder has already been reported to the Norwegian data protection authority for similar breaches of privacy laws. The NCC’s investigation into Runkeeper discovered that user location data is tracked around the clock and gets transmitted to a third party advertiser in the U.S. called Kiip.me.
The NCC’s digital policy director, Finn Myrstad, told Ars Technica: “Everyone understands that Runkeeper tracks users while they exercise, but to continue after the training has ended is not okay. Not only is it a breach of privacy laws, we are also convinced that users do not want to be tracked in this way, or for information to be shared with third party advertisers. It is clear that Runkeeper needs to have a good think about how it treats user’s data and privacy”.
But it doesn’t stop there: the investigation reportedly uncovered multiple breaches of user privacy. The NCC now wants Norway’s data protection agency to take action on its claims. Unfortunately, because Runkeeper has no European subsidiaries – it’s a U.S.-based company – the data protection agency has limited powers to impose sanctions on the company.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about apps taking more than they should and trying to make a buck off it. It’s good to know that investigations like this are being conducted, if for no other reason than that, armed with the knowledge of what an app’s developers are up to, we can decide whether we want to continue supporting them or not.
Does this surprise you? Would you continue to use an app guilty of this?