The continued stealth-like and alluded to cynical approach to third party affairs of data-mining social networks as alleged by Facebook’s detractors has reared its ugly ahead again of late, as a UK health insurance policy provider faces a barrage of criticism for the role it’s playing.
One known as PruHealth, Vitality has courted controversy recently by urging its policyholders to facilitate a Facebook-owned fitness-tracking app so as to keep receiving an incentivising free weekly cinema ticket.
Opting to download the ‘Moves’ app entitles users to free access to the flicks – which is obviously a plus point – however the issues arise as according to critics, amongst whom privacy campaigners number most, when discovered that the app’s relationship with Facebook is not exactly forthcoming.
Indeed, it’s the cloak and dagger collaboration with Facebook which rankles most, as apparently neither the insurer’s emails nor webpage which otherwise describe and promote the activity tracker pay mention to its links with the social network behemoth.
On further scrutiny it emerges that Moves’ own homepage and dedicated app store listings also fails to mention the nature of its relationship with Facebook.
At this un-flagged juncture it does offer a more defined and inclusive explanation as to Moves’ dealings with Facebook, underlining that all-important concession that it does share data with Mark Zuckerberg’s corporate cyberspace colossus and its associated companies by default.
Despite Facebook giving the BBC assurances that it utilises Moves as what it calls a ‘stand-alone’ app and doesn’t have any direct bearings on Facebook users’ profiles, privacy group, Big Brother Watch remains unconvinced.
Facebook at Centre of Undocumented, Yet Unfounded, Data-Mining Storm Involving Fitness-Tracking App
Citing the obvious consumer appeal of potentially lower health insurance premiums and free cinema tickets, Big Brother Watch fears that furnishing a downloadable app which triggers these benefits in the first instance grants third parties exposure to a sizeable volume of personal data about that individual, and would like Vitality and Moves to make its relationship with Facebook a lot more transparent from a customer perspective. If only to alert would-be policyholders to the underlying fact that indirectly, a social networking company will be able to plunder key information about you.
Vitality for its part argues that the rolling-out of any such initiative will only benefit thousands of people as it seeks to encourage increased numbers of people to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. Snapped up by South African company, Discovery in the aftermath of Prudential’s selling of its stake late in 2014, Vitality counters that the now contentious Moves isn’t the sole fitness-monitoring package offered in the grand scheme of things, as alternative app-providers Garmin, Fitbit, Fitbug, Polar and Misfit are also available.
Having said that Moves is positioned in such a way in this list to attract the greater interest, buoyed by it being promoted as the only way to record time-based running and cycling work-out functionality, and which themselves are the key to unlock the free cinema passes.
Another voice of concern is raised by health date campaign group, MedConfidential, representing whom Phil Booth added; “Bribing customers to hand over their sensitive personal data – including biometric measurements, activity and location data – is at best questionable, especially when the data is being shipped out of the UK’s jurisdiction.” He went on to say; “Burying the fact that if you use the recommended free app, Facebook will get all your data – even if you’ve never had a Facebook account – is a truly shocking compromise of customer privacy.”
Facebook distanced itself from the thorny subject by insisting that it doesn’t receive health stats directly from Vitality and tried to placate concerns by stating that its use and reach of Move’s data was restricted beyond the confines of the app.