Mobile Apps & Data Privacy – Do All Apps Share Data?

Apps VPN

Are you comfortable sharing information about what you buy, where you go, what you do, including the personally identifiable information?

No, right? Then why share everything with the apps that we use? To answer this, some might say it is a prerequisite to use an app while others might say they are unaware of the pitfalls.

With that being said, let me tell you that almost all of the apps that you use, share data either with third parties or keep it for their personal use.

An average smartphone user these days has between 60-90 apps installed on his/her phone. 


Surprised! Well don’t be the most shocking statistics about which apps share most data and what they share, is yet to come.

As you read further, we will tell which apps share the most data and makes you vulnerable.

Most mobile apps are available for free yet they come with a high price: they collect personal data, for personal use and sell it to third parties, whatever they like. 

92% of apps available on the App Store and 96% of apps available on the Google Play Store are free.

Why do apps collect data & what type of data is collected?

Various studies show 80 percent of apps collect users’ data to market their products within their apps and beyond. This includes both displaying their ads or promoting in-app purchases.

The two apps that topped the list are Facebook and Instagram. Both services use 86% of user data like date of birth and others, to sell their product and display relevant ads on behalf of others.

Symbiotic relationships between apps permit apps to collect user data from social media accounts. 

Data collected by third parties via smartphone apps include – personally identifiable information like age, gender, location, usernames, data related to nearby Wi-Fi routers, phone details, and information about every app installed on your phone.

What is the most common type of data shared with apps (In Terms Of Percentage)?

48% of iOS apps and 44% of Android apps have found sharing emails. (In context to Android apps, this figure can go higher as some apps use Facebook Graph API (the one used by Cambridge Analytica to collect personal information related to 87 million Facebook users). This means email addresses might be shared with them too.)

  • 33% of iOS apps and 30% of Android apps have found sharing usernames.
  • 12% of iOS apps and 9% of Android apps have found sharing phone numbers.
  • 4% of iOS apps and 5% of Android apps have found sharing user’s addresses.
  • 29% of iOS apps and 47% of Android apps have been integrated with Google services.
  • 26% of iOS apps and 41% of Android apps have been integrated with the Facebook Graph API service.

Interesting facts about Mobile Apps and Data Privacy

Do you know Apple known for its privacy and data security asks app developers to get users permission to share data across applications? If an app fails to fulfill this requirement, it is kicked out from the App Store.  

With that said, can we trust the company that puts a billboard up in Las Vegas with, “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone”?

To understand this scenario better, and to see how different apps use data, we did some digging on Apple’s updated privacy policy. Certainly, the new terms allow users to revoke the app’s access, but to let the app function properly all permissions are required. This means willingly or unwillingly users will have to grant permission.

45% of popular Android apps and 25% of popular iOS apps request permission to track location, device camera, call logs, and SMS messages.

An average app can share your data with third parties while 1 in 5 apps share with more than 20 recipients.

With that said, which are the apps that collect the most data? And what happens with the gathered information?

As expected, half of the apps i.e., 52% of tested apps share information for targeted advertising.

Here’s is the list of those apps with the percentage of data they collect

Most Risky App Permissions

Besides accessing personal information, to allow users to access certain apps, the feature app asks users to grant certain mobile device permissions. In plain sight, it might look ok but these permissions are the riskiest.

  • Device’s camera permissions

25% of iOS apps and 46% of Android apps seek camera access permissions

25% of iOS apps and 45% of Android apps seek location permissions

  • Audio Recording

9% of iOS apps and 25% of Android apps seek permission to record audio

  • Read SMS messages and call logs

15% of Android apps seek location permissions while 10% seek permission to access call logs

Note: iOS does not support seeking permission for SMS and call logs. 

Interesting Fact

iOS counterparts of most Android apps do not request the aforementioned risk permissions. This raises eyebrows and the question of why these permissions are requested in the Android version, not in the iOS version?

What’s your opinion?

Apps Under the Microscope

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • UberEats
  • Trainline
  • YouTube
  • YouTube Music
  • Amazon
  • Google

Percentage of Personal Data Collected by Apps and Shared with Third Parties

If I say, social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube collect the most data, you won’t be surprised, right? But if I say mental health apps also share data, then?

Does this come as a surprise?

Well, it does!

Know more about these apps by reading the study done by Consumer Reports, which discloses information about seven mental health apps found sharing user data.

Do you know how apps collect personal data?

Well, the answer is simple, users willingly share their data. When it comes to social media to get personalized recommendations it is done. While in the case of mental health apps to get telehealth appointments, and assistance personal details are shared.

Information is shared and device permissions are enabled with the user’s consent.

Percentage Wise – Top apps Sharing information with third parties

  • Instagram collects 79% of personal data
  • Facebook collects 57% of personal data
  • LinkedIn collects 0% of personal data
  • UberEats collects 50% of personal data
  • Trainline, YouTube, and YouTube Music each of these apps collect 43% of personal data.

In addition to this, Looking at the above data, it’s evident that Instagram is the winner, followed by its parent company Facebook. But do you know what data Instagram shares?

The 79% of personal data collected and shared by Instagram to third parties include – purchase details, browsing history, personal data, and so on. This is the reason why you see more personalized content on Instagram.

Alongside sharing information with third parties, these social media apps collect personal data for their personal use. This is certainly done to show advertisements but there’s a bright side to it. Sometimes due to this, you get special discount codes on your special occasions.

But are you willing to sacrifice your data for a discounted coupon code? 

If not, and are looking for ways to protect yourself from being tracked online using a VPN. Using a Virtual Private Network you can not only hide location, IP address, browse anonymously but can also unblock geo-restricted data.

For Windows users, our recommendation is Systweak VPN. However, if you are looking for a multi-platform VPN check our post on the Best VPN services that help keep your privacy intact.

Most invasive apps

After knowing about the top apps that collect and share your data, are you eager to find out the biggest culprits? Yes!

Well, if you say social media apps are the most invasive ones, it won’t be hyperbole. You are right, 40% of the top invasive apps comprise social media platforms.

Top invasive apps:

  • Instagram (62% of personal data tracked)
  • Facebook (55% of personal data tracked)
  • Uber Eats (50% of personal data tracked)
  • Trainline (43% of personal data tracked)
  • eBay (40% of personal data tracked)
  • LinkedIn (40% of personal data tracked)
  • Twitter (40% of personal data tracked)
  • YouTube (36% of personal data tracked)
  • YouTube Music (36% of personal data tracked)
  • Grubhub (36% of personal data tracked)

Does this mean, none of the apps are safe to use? Will all the apps we use steal data?

Well no, there are certain safe apps. Though the list is not as extensive as the ones that collect data, yet apps that don’t collect data exist.

The safest apps

With the personal data-hungry apps out there, here’s the list of safest apps.

  • Netflix
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Google Classroom
  • Shazam
  • Etsy
  • Skype
  • Telegram
  • Boohoo
  • Zoom (even after being in the limelight for security reasons, it has made it to the list.)

Out of these apps Signal, Clubhouse, Telegram are some that are quite proactive when it comes to users’ data protection.

Mobile App Statistics You Should Know –

Guarding your privacy

How to Avoid granting unnecessary permissions?

Keep the following points in mind before installing an app:

  1. Thoroughly read all the permissions required by the app, if you think they are unnecessary never allow them.
  2. Always ask a question why the app required asked permissions. If the permissions seem too intruding, ask yourself is it a way to collect personal information?
  3. Read privacy policy. In case you are unable to find it or determine what data the app might collect and share, avoid installing the app.

After the app is installed

If you are running an app without checking what permissions it is using, you need to go to app settings and check app permissions.

Android users can do so by heading to Settings > Permissions or App Permissions.

Note: Sometimes removing permissions might make an app unfunctional. If this happens, remember the app is poorly designed. 

Now It’s Your Turn!

Are you Up for Discussions? 

Do share your opinion on these questions and let us know your take

Is it only the mobile apps that track you ? or are trackers everywhere?

What do you think, what all information can smartphone apps disclose about users?

Why do apps collect data? Is it to earn money or track users?

How to Keep personal information protected?

1. Read the privacy policy of each app and social network you use.

2. Avoid signing into an app using social networking or a Google account. In case for the ease of use and to avoid remembering passwords you do so, check what type of data the app might fetch from social networking sites.

To securely save passwords and to generate strong passwords, you can use a password manager. We recommend using TweakPass – the best password manager that not only helps generate random passwords but also offers a secure vault.

3. If you like signing up using social networking sites or Google be vary of the information you provide on these sites.

4. Before posting a link, picture, or any data on social networking sites, ask yourself do you want networking sites to have all this information about you?

Ways to check what apps are using data from Facebook and Google?

On Facebook: 

1. Open your Facebook account

2. Click the small down arrow > Settings & privacy

apps are using data from Facebook and Google?

3. Settings > Apps and websites from the left pane

Apps and websites

4. Here, you will see the apps accessing data. If you want, you can remove the apps or edit the permissions.

Apps and websites

Note: Removing an app doesn’t mean all the data it already has will be erased. To get that done, you will have to contact the respective app provider.

Removing bumble

To check apps using data from your Google Account, follow these steps:

  1. Visit https://myaccount.google.com/permissions
  2. Review third-party apps that have access to Google account and edit the permissions.

This way, you can keep your data secure.

User Needs to Take The Action

Remember – Each app installed on your smartphone is a potential spy, knowingly or unknowingly you share a lot of data with them, thus allowing them to know a lot about your life and invading your data privacy. So, always be attentive to the apps you install and the data permissions you grant access too.

If the apps you are using are helping you out, it’s great. But this doesn’t mean you can blindly trust them. Take some time to find out what you are sharing and how it’s used.

Hopefully, in the coming months or even years companies will change their policies, but for now, to keep data secure try implementing these points.

It’s up to the user to ask if these permissions are essential for an app to function properly?

When downloading any app from either App Store or Google Play Store view the privacy policy. If you are an iOS user, tap See Details under the App Privacy section while Android users need to open the app and look for the Developer section in the app details page, then select Privacy Policy.

Note: Some apps provide a link to their privacy policy on their app store page as well. You can also check up on apps you already downloaded in the App Store.

To opt-out of some type of data collection, head to Settings.

Alongside, make sure you do not install unnecessary apps as they can collect data and take unwanted space. Download apps only from official stores as these apps undergo security and quality checks that others don’t. Lastly, keep a check on app permissions.

Hope you find the article interesting please share your feedback in the comments section. 

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