Some of the apps are sharing highly personal data, according to a study from the Norwegian Consumer Council.
Ten popular apps -- including dating services Tinder, OkCupid and Grindr -- are sharing people's personal information with dozens of digital marketing and ad tech companies without consumers being aware, according to a new study. The only way for many users to protect their information, the report says, is for them to have never installed the apps at all.
The study, released Tuesday by the Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerradet), found that the apps, which also included period-tracking apps Clue and My Days, were collectively sharing user data with at least 135 advertising-related companies. The shared data included GPS locations and IP addresses, as well as personal details about gender, sexuality and political views, according to the study.
Match Group, which owns Tinder and OkCupid, said it uses third-party companies to assist with "technical operations and providing our overall services."
"We only share the specific information deemed necessary to operate our platform, in line with the applicable laws including GDPR and CCPA, said a Match Group spokesperson Monday, referring to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act. "All Match Group products obtain from these vendors strict contractual commitments that ensure confidentiality, security of users' personal information and strictly prohibit commercialization of this data."
It's incumbent on developers to respect privacy since users generally aren't educated enough to to take action on their own, he added. "It's more in the hands of the developer/publisher to protect its users' privacy," Andries said. "It's more about ethics and doing the right thing than being thanked for this. You don't get any thanks or rewards for this."
The other apps cited in the study -- Grindr, Happn, Muslim: Qibla Finder and Perfect365 -- didn't respond to requests for comment.
"Every day, millions of Americans share their most intimate personal details on these apps, upload personal photos, track their periods and reveal their sexual and religious identities," Burcu Kilic, of Public Citizen, said in a release. "But these apps and online services spy on people, collect vast amounts of personal data and share it with third parties without people's knowledge."
Public Citizen, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of California and nine other advocacy groups, has called on the US Federal Trade Commission, Congress and the attorneys general of three states to investigate the app companies' data sharing practices.
The study also said the apps didn't clearly inform users that data would be shared with third-party ad companies. Though some of the data sharing is described in the apps' privacy policies, the descriptions are long, complex and unlikely to be read by consumers, according to the study. The majority of the apps also didn't offer options or settings to prevent or reduce the sharing of data with third-party companies. The NCC said this leaves most people with one option if they don't want their data shared: Don't install the apps at all.
The NCC tweeted that it'll file complaints against six companies based on its findings.
Originally published Jan. 14.
Update, Jan. 14: Adds response from My Days app and Outfit7. Update, Jan. 21: Adds response from Wave Design Studio.