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Are Fitness apps safe? Here is what you need to know

Fitness and health apps help you figure out how much you exercise, how many calories you burn, and what else you need to do to burn that stubborn fat around the belly. Although these apps help improve health to a great extent, they also end up jeopardizing your privacy. Keep on reading to learn about fitness apps safety concerns.

Most of these apps share sensitive information relating to you with multiple third parties, including Facebook. For instance, location data, confidential medical data, and health conditions. Given the sensitive data collected by these apps, they pose a threat to the privacy of millions around the globe!

Fact: Fitness apps have gained ever-increasing popularity worldwide, with Fitbit alone having over 27 million users. Meanwhile, Strava has 42 million, and it has claimed it adds 1 million users each month.

What are fitness apps?

Before learning about fitness apps safety, you need to know what fitness apps are about. Some fitness apps come with wearable devices that sync with your smartphone, while others function based on the information you enter. Fitness apps help you manage your health and bring about improvements to it. However, they do so by collecting a lot of personal data relating to you, hence the need for fitness apps safety.

What do fitness apps know about you?

Fitness apps collect a variety of information about you – your heart rate, blood pressure, how much you travel or walk, your sleeping time, and weight. They also count calories you are consuming, your optimum daily calorie intake and the calories consumed versus the calories burned.

The fitness app data can be breached and contributes to fitness apps safety issues

Where is your data kept

How the fitness apps keep your data and who do they share it with is the crux of the fitness apps safety issue. Fitness apps companies often share your real-time health data with third parties such as advertisers, social networks, and other apps that profit off of your sensitive information.

How to stay secure online and maintain fitness apps safety

You may be surprised to know that it’s within the law for apps to share people’s medical information since the privacy laws are not applicable to information being collected by people for their own use. Fitness apps are not answerable to the law in this regard.

Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that your privacy is safe as you use fitness apps:

1- Go through the privacy policy – If there is not enough clarity about what data it’s sharing and with whom it’s sharing your data, you should assume that the data entered by you will be shared with unidentified third parties. If you aren’t okay with that, go for a different app.

2- Analyze the privacy settings – Check the privacy settings to see how much control it provides over the collection of your data.

3- Perform due diligence – Ask around online forums and communities to see what others have to say about the app’s privacy.

Misleading and vague privacy policies

“We may share your information with our sponsors, and/or business partners” – what does this tell you? This statement constitutes the crux of the privacy policy of most of the fitness apps out there and enough for any user to take an informed decision with respect to the consent. Such vague privacy policies comprise one of the most significant fitness apps safety issues.

Privacy violations by popular fitness apps

In the United States, the health apps Cardiio, My Baby’s beat, and Runtastic are sharing user data with third parties without explicit consent and are now being urged to make amends. Moreover, the fitness app Strava gives away real-time locations of its bikers and runners, making it a treasure trove for those with malicious intent. It’s “FlyBy” feature also allows users to see the information related to other Strava users they came across while on the run. Strava’s data can be used to locate people’s homes through the jogging routes frequented by them.

In the UK, a sharp increase in bike thefts was attributed to the thieves relying on Strava’s data to conduct thefts in 2014. Although Strava has it’s own privacy controls, few users know about them or use them, leading us to another serious issue – lack of privacy-related awareness.

The fact that people are unaware of these apps’ vulnerabilities, their dubious data collection practices, and fitness app privacy has also contributed to this situation.

Your data held by the fitness apps can be breached

Apart from other fitness apps safety issues, data breaches have also occurred. MyFitnessPal’s user data – usernames, passwords, and email addresses of 150 million users were exposed in 2018.

                         Check out Ivacy Lookout to see if you have become the victim of a breach!

Final Thoughts

Undoubtedly, fitness and health apps are excellent tools to have when you are working towards your fitness goals since they motivate you to eat right, exercise efficiently, and remain on track to the optimum fitness levels. However, it’s not worth endangering your privacy for the sake of fitness. It’s essential that you keep abreast of the fitness apps safety issues and how they concern you.

Tags : privacy
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