Mobile Apps and Privacy: Study Ranks Popular Games Based on Data Collection Practices

In the digital age, it is a common practice for mobile apps to collect user data to improve their platforms and generate profits. However, the extent to which apps access and utilize user data varies. Some apps function with minimal data collection, while others gather extensive amounts of user information, which is then packaged and sold to data brokers. In a recent study, VPN service provider Surfshark has ranked the most popular mobile games based on their data-hungriness index, shedding light on their data collection practices and the sensitivity of the information collected.

According to the report, Call of Duty Mobile, Candy Crush Saga, and Carrom Pool Disc Game are the top three worst gaming apps for privacy. These apps appear to collect up to 17 out of 32 different data points, including photos, videos, contact information, location data, and contacts. Additionally, the study reveals that 38 out of the 50 mobile gaming apps examined share users’ data for third-party advertising purposes.

Surfshark’s research highlights that these three games specifically gather accurate user location data. When apps track precise location information, they have the potential to expose sensitive details such as users’ home addresses, workplaces, daily routines, or frequently visited places. Advertisers and marketers find this precise location data valuable as it enables them to target users with location-specific advertisements or promotions. However, it also raises concerns about the potential misuse of this data by malicious individuals engaging in unauthorized tracking or profiling activities.

Interestingly, the two most popular games in India, Ludo King and Subway Surfers, ranked 38th and 7th, respectively, in terms of their invasiveness to privacy.

On the other hand, Traffic Rider, Mini Militia, and Among Us were identified as the least invasive to privacy in Surfshark’s analysis, collecting up to seven data points. This suggests that the excessive information collected by other apps may not be necessary for the app to function effectively.

In a press release, Surfshark explained that its data hungriness index analyzes the data collection practices of the 50 most popular mobile gaming apps across 60 countries, available on the Apple Store. The index is based on three pillars: data not linked to a user’s identity (such as app crash data), data that could be linked to a user’s identity (such as name), and data that could track users across apps and websites (such as user ID). The study also adds 20 percent of the total points if the app sells data for advertisements.

To empower users with information, Surfshark suggests checking the privacy-nutrient labels on the Apple App Store and Google Play before downloading an app. These labels will provide insights into the data an app requires to function, helping users make more informed decisions about their privacy.

As mobile gaming continues to surge in popularity, it is crucial for users to be aware of the data collection practices of the apps they engage with. By understanding the extent of data collection and the sensitivity of the information shared, users can make informed choices about the apps they download and take steps to protect their privacy in the digital realm.

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