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Be Aware: These Personal Finance Apps Collect Unnecessary Personal Data

Personal finance apps are a go-to for many of us trying to manage our money more effectively. However, a new study by Merchant Machine reveals a problematic aspect of these apps: they collect way more personal data than they actually need.

A Closer Look at Data Collection Practices

Here’s an example of a seemingly innocent finance tool that turned out to have some pretty invasive practices. 'Robinhood: Investing for All' is an app used for stock market trading. It provides a user-friendly interface with up-and-coming features, making trading accessible and straightforward. However, delving deeper into its privacy policy yielded startling realizations. 
In fact, Robinhood collects 25 different types of personal data, gathering much more than just basic information. Is browsing history and contact information really needed for stock trading? Or is it used for other purposes we don't know about?
It is crucial to know what personal information we are sharing with apps like Robinhood, which isn't unique in its issues. The study examined numerous other apps, uncovering similar patterns:

  •     Robinhood: Investing for All (25 types of data)
  •     PayPal – Send, Shop, Manage
  •     PayPal Pay in 4
  •     Klarna
  •     Groupon – Local Deals Near Me (all collecting 21 or more types of data)
  •     Chime – Mobile Banking (23 categories)
  •     Chase Mobile (20 categories)

These apps don’t simply track obvious things like where you are or your spending habits. They're digging into your browsing and search history, who you're in contact with, and even your health and fitness info.
But it's not all bad news. Some apps show more responsible data practices. 'GO2Bank', 'RetailMeNot: Coupons, Cashback,' and 'FreshBooks Accounting' each collect only two types of data. This proves that effective functionality doesn't need excessive data collection.

Keep Your Personal Data in Check

Most of us hit the "Agree" button without reading the privacy policy. This seemingly harmless habit can end up causing severe consequences. 
Privacy policies tell us what data is collected and how it's used, so we can make informed decisions about the apps we use. By skipping this step, we unknowingly consent to data practices that we might not be comfortable with.
The big takeaway? Always check out the privacy settings on these apps. You'll often find permissions that aren't needed for the app to work just fine. Cutting back on these can really help keep your personal info, well, personal.  

Most apps provide the following information in their privacy policies:

  •     What They Collect. They tell you all the personal details they take. This ranges from basic information to more sensitive data like location,  browsing history, and financial details.
  •     How They Use It: They explain how they use your info. This could include improving app functionality, targeted advertising, or even sharing data with third parties.
  •     Keeping Your Info Safe: Policies explain how they keep your data safe. Knowing these provides reassurance about the app’s security or alerts you to potential vulnerabilities.
  •     Informed Consent: By understanding the privacy policy, you give informed consent. If you skip this step, you could end up agreeing to things you're not comfortable with.
With this knowledge, you can make smarter choices about which apps to use or avoid, depending on how they handle data.
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