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Weight loss Android apps skim on privacy protection

With the year closing to an end, many will look to various apps to help keep track of different New Year’s resolutions. While apps may help to monitor progress, they may also hinder digital security.

Not all apps that may help to keep track of new year’s resolution progress are created equal. According to data privacy agent Incogni, privacy-wise, some app categories fare much worse than others.

Researchers looked at 344 New Year’s resolution apps on Google Play Store across 16 categories and have each one a privacy risk score.

Incogni’s team evaluated apps’ privacy protection level, what type of permissions users need to provide apps with, and if users are required to give ‘dangerous permissions.’

New Year's resolution apps
Image by Incogni.

The results show a massive difference between app categories. For example, the weight loss app category performed the worst receiving the most points for bad privacy practices.

Decorating and renovating apps were in second place, closely followed by apps nagging users to exercise more and spend less time on social media.

“Conversely, the Quitting smoking resolution category has the lowest privacy risk score at 23.3, making quitting nicotine the best resolution to track via app this New Year,” researchers said in a blog post.

An analysis of Android apps also illuminated more general trends. Out of all analyzed apps, 84% requested at least one dangerous permission. Researchers define ‘dangerous permission’ as being of higher risk since they give the app access to private user data or even control over the device.

Over 74% of apps requested permission to read the contents of USB storage, while 66% wanted to modify or delete the contents of USB storage.

“Three categories immediately stand out as the worst. The Volunteering, Losing weight, and Decorating/renovating home categories all request at least one dangerous permission,” reads the blog post.

At the other end of the spectrum, quitting smoking apps requested dangerous permissions the least, with 59% of analyzed apps with a category asking for dangerous permissions and 40% not.

Interestingly, researchers noticed that app popularity correlates with risk to data privacy: popular apps often have fewer concerns for user privacy.

“The most popular group of apps have an average privacy risk score that’s twice as high as the least popular group. They also request 5 more permissions and 2 more dangerous permissions and use one more ad library on average,” researchers said.

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