Watch out – there could be a snooping app sucking up your data

Staff Reporter
October 10, 2023


  • Nearly 87% of Android apps and 60% of Apple’s iOS versions seek access to personal mobile data unrelated to their performance

  • Chat and dating app Bumble is the UK’s most intrusive popular app, collecting 44% more data than it needs to work and requesting the most permissions to access device features

  • Fellow dating app Tinder and social media favourite TikTok are also among the biggest data grabbers of popular UK apps      

  • The new research by NordVPN reveals that two in five apps (42%) ask for permissions about user activities not connected to their function,  meaning that they aim to collect data across other applications and websites.

  • Bumble is the UK’s most intrusive popular app, collecting 44% more data than it needs to work and requesting the most permissions to access device features

    Bumble says: We and our partners use cookies and similar technologies to store and access your personal data and help us improve your experience. This can include unique identifiers or information about your browsing behaviour. Cookies allow us to provide you with tailored ads and content, perform analytics to improve our marketing and performance, and allow you to share content on social media.

 Three-quarters of mobile apps are harvesting our personal data due to unnecessary and overreaching developer permissions, according to an analysis of the most popular mobile apps globally by cybersecurity company NordVPN

Researchers used the privacy checker Exodus to compare the leading apps of 18 different countries including the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

In the UK, Bumble was found to be the biggest offender among the most popular downloads, with 14 out of its 32 requests (44%) about data unrelated to the functioning of its iOS app.  

The dating giant’s Android app also sought the most access to users’ devices of the top apps analysed, asking for a total of 46 permissions, including 14 “special” permissions relating to areas storing highly sensitive information.

Typically, iOS apps provide fewer permissions than their Android equivalents, as Apple locks down more features, offering added security but potentially less control for users.

TikTok is among the biggest data grabbers of popular UK apps

How to protect your privacy on apps

Download from official stores. Unofficial app stores won’t always have systems to check whether an app is safe before it’s published and available to download. Moreover, getting an app from an unofficial source carries the risk of it being modified by criminals.

Read the app’s privacy policy before downloading. Check what information the app will track and what it will share with third parties. If you’re not happy with the level of privacy, look for an alternative.

Get to know your data permissions. When you download an app, you’ll be asked to give various permissions to access your data. Make sure they make sense to you. If you already have an app, review all the permissions turn off the ones you don’t want or need, and consider deleting the apps that ask for many permissions (especially if they’re not needed for the app’s functionality). You should pay particular attention to permissions like camera, microphone, storage, location, and contact list. 

Limit location permissions. Many apps request access to your phone’s location services, so ensure you know which apps you’ve granted access to. It’s best to allow apps to track your location only when using the app, rather than all the time.

Don’t automatically sign in with social network accounts. If you’re logging in to an app with your social media account, the app can collect information from the account and vice versa.  

Delete apps you don’t use. If an app is sitting unused on your screen and you’re not getting anything from it, delete it. Chances are it’s still collecting data on you even if you’re not using it.

About the Author

Share this article