Is Runkeeper Fitness App Tracking Too Much Personal Data?

Fitness apps are all the rage today. It seems every runner in the park is wearing a tracking device of some sort that collects data on their workouts and transmits it to a mobile app for user review. But are some fitness tech companies going too far in tracking their users?

Tinder came under fire a few months ago by the Norwegian consumer authority, and now the spotlight is being shone upon Runkeeper. Fortune Magazine confirmed that a complaint was lodged against Runkeeper by the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC), who will be looking into the matter.

Fitness Apps tracking too much dataThe primary issue is whether Runkeepr properly explained its tracking practices in its user policy. The fitness app does what most trackers do, logging the location information of a user during a workout. However, unlike most, the user’s location logging continues unfettered throughout all hours of the day, whether the user is exercising or not.

“Everyone understands that Runkeeper tracks users while they exercise,” explained the NCC’s technical director, Finn Myrstad. “But to continue to do so after the training session has ended is not okay.”

Runkeeper utilizes time-stamped location data. The company also works in tandem with Google advertising IDs, which are capable of identifying a specific individual. When you put the two together, the possibility of pin-pointing the exact location of a specific person at any given time comes into question, and could clearly be in violation of Norway’s and the European Union’s consumer protection laws.

Furthermore, those who use the fitness app are generally unaware of how they, and their location, is being tracked. The NCC said Runkeeper’s terms and conditions do not clarify how often information is being transmitted, and because users aren’t being made aware of it, they haven’t given their consent to being monitored in such an incessant fashion.

The council would also like to find out how often the company is deleting the user information collected by its fitness trackers. The laws require such information to be deleted as soon as it’s no longer necessary. Again, Runkeeper’s policies do not clearly explain their data deletion policies.

Runkeeper is one of the older fitness tracking brands in the business, established in 2008. The Boston-based company has been running smoothly for years. It wasn’t until Asics, a leading footwear manufacturer in Japan, purchased the company earlier this year that it’s tracking practices came into question. Whether the acquisition and inquisition are related is unknown.

The query into Runkeeper is just the latest in a series of investigations by the NCC in its “AppFail” campaign, targeting irresponsible terms and privacy policies among the myriad app services flooding the mobile market.

Tinder was the first company to come under fire from the NCC in February when the council accused its user agreement of being “unfair”, forcing users to give them complete ownership of all collected data, giving themselves authority to delete accounts without cause, and not allowing users to delete their own accounts, among other things.

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