Runkeeper just doesn’t know when to quit says Norwegian consumer advocates
Three exercise-tracking apps keeps tracking you long after you stop exercising, according to Norwegian Consumer Council, a consumer advocacy group.
The council engaged an independent research outfit called SINTEF to examine what apps do when you stop running, and whether those activities comply with the apps’ privacy policies.
Three failed those tests and the Council is now drawing this to the attention of Norway’s Data Protection Authority.
The complaint (PDF) alleges that Runkeeper “tracks users and transmits personal data to a third party when not in use” and “does not appear to delete personal data as a matter of routine or when the user requests it.”
“We have also noted that many apps, Runkeeper included, demand the perpetual right to the user’s content, which includes a license to share the user’s content to unspecified third parties,” the complaint adds. “As many other app providers, Runkeeper also reserves the right to update their privacy at any time without prior notice.”
“Seen in context of the wide-ranging licenses regarding user-generated content, the terms come across as unfair.
An additional issue we have identified in several apps, including Runkeeper, is that the service providers do not appear to delete personal data when the app has not been used for some time. Nor do they appear to delete data if a user deletes their user account.”
The complaint names the apps Vipps and Happn as also tracking users once they stop running, but as both have already been the subject of investigations in Europe the complaint focuses on US-based Runkeeper’s publisher FitnessKeeper Inc.
The Council’s main beef with Runkeeper is that its fine print just doesn’t mention tracking other than for exercise. Here’s the text from the app’s site that the Council finds just a tad misleading:
‘Location: We hope this one is self-explanatory, but we do in fact use your location to track your workouts.
The GPS hardware exists on your phone and Runkeeper needs this permission into [sic] order to use your phone’s GPS so we can be your workout buddy on the road!’
The complaint asks Norwegian authorities to rule on whether Runkeeper complies with local privacy regulations.
Norway’s penalties for privacy breaches can include jail time and fines.
Both sanctions are moot as if FitnessKeeper has no local presence Norway can huff and puff all it likes in response to breaches. ®
Rise of the machines