Runkeeper: A fitness app or a tracking app?

Popular fitness app Runkeeper tracks users even when not in use, does not delete personal data when users stop using it, and shares users’ personal data with an advertising company in the US, the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) says in a complaint lodged with the Norwegian Data Protection Authority.

Based on a report by independent research org SINTEF, Runkeeper, Vipps (Norwegian payment app) and Happn (dating app) are especially problematic when it comes to users’ privacy.

The complaint, though, singles our Runkeeper and its developer, US-based company FitnessKeeper, claiming that the app:

  • Doesn’t clearly state what it defines as personal data
  • Requests unnecessary permissions
  • Reserves the right to update the privacy without prior notice
  • Requests perpetual right to the user’s content, which allows it to share the user’s content with third parties (US-based advertiser Kiip.me, specifically)
  • Does not delete personal data when the app has not been used for some time, nor does it delete user data when a user deletes his or her account.

The NCC says that users are never explicitly told or have consented to their location or other personal data being collected when the mobile phone is not in use, and to this data being forwarded to a third party.

The Council asks the Norwegian Data Protection Authority to look into the matter, to see whether Runkeeper and FitnessKeeper fall afoul of the European Data Protection Directive, and to sanction the company if needed.

Runkeeper is one of the most popular fitness apps in Norway, but FitnessKeeper does not have an official presence in Europe. It is therefore unclear what sanctions, if any, the Norwegian Data Protection Authority can impose on it.

“Yet we are of the understanding that the Data Protection Authority may in certain instances be able to investigate cases such as this one. The Norwegian Consumer Council therefore asks that the Data Protection Authority use the channels available to it to look into the case and address the issues that it raises,” the NCC says in the complaint.

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Runkeeper: A fitness app or a tracking app?