Another day, another privacy scandal. It seems as though FitnessKeeper, the company behind the popular Runkeeper app, has been secretly gathering data about its users and selling that data to advertisers. No, not just when the app is active, but in the background as well.
The discovery was made by the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) as part of an extensive look at 20 popular apps and whether or not they do what their permissions say they do. The NCC has filed a formal complaints for breaching European privacy laws.
“We were recently made aware of a complaint filed by the Norwegian Consumer Council with the Norwegian Data Protection Authority,” CEO Jason Jacobs told Digital Trends.
“Our users’ privacy is of the utmost importance to us, and we take our obligation to comply with data protection laws very seriously. We are in the process of reviewing the issues raised in the complaint, and we will cooperate with the Norwegian DPA if it has any questions arising out of the complaint.”
According to the NCC, which is a consumer rights watchdog, Runkeeper tracks location data around the clock, then sends that data to a U.S.-based third-party advertiser, Kiip.me. The app was found to be still recording data for a period of up to 48 hours, even when the user’s smartphone was idle.
“Everyone understands that Runkeeper tracks users while they exercise, but to continue after the training has ended is not OK,” said NCC digital policy director Finn Myrstad in an interview with Ars Technica. “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.”
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely FitnessKeeper will face any serious sanctions in Europe — the company has no European subsidiaries and is entirely based in the United States. As such, European agencies have limited power against it.
Ironically enough, Runkeeper seems to be concerned with its users being honest, having recently tweeted a picture asking “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve thought of while on a run?” with the caption “Be honest!”
As part of the NCC’s investigation, Tinder is also under scrutiny, but no formal complaints have yet been filed.
Updated on 05-14-2016 by Christian de Looper: Included comments from CEO Jason Jacobs.