Ride-hailing platforms such as Uber and Ola top the chart on collecting extensive information about their riders which may be used for third-party advertising, according to a study conducted by cybersecurity company Surfshark.
According to Surfshark's data sensitivity index, SoftBank-backed Ola, the most popular ride-hailing app in India, comes sixth in the global data-hungriness ranking with a total of 18 data points collected.
"Many people today are willing to trade privacy for comfort and share their personal information in exchange for a service,” said Surfshark’s CEO Vytautas Kaziukonis. “By doing so, people leave digital footprints everywhere they go, including their personal details, physical addresses, and even the links they click on. Moreover, some apps share users’ personal information with “third parties'' for “marketing purposes”. For instance, our study shows that 9 out of 30 analyzed ride-hailing apps use collected data for "Third-Party advertising."
The study conducted by Surfshark revealed that ride-hailing and taxi apps collect extensive information about their users. According to the research, these apps, on average, collect 14 data points per user and 30 per cent of them use this data for "Third-Party advertising". Surfshark's data sensitivity index, which shows what type of data ride-hailing apps collect, ranked widely used GrabTaxi, Yandex Go, and Uber as the most data-hungry carpooling apps in the world. India’s most popular ridesharing app Ola comes in 6th place, while Indian bike-taxi aggregator Rapido collects the least amount of data in the ranking.
GrabTaxi collects almost ten times more data than the least data-hungry app Rapido – 27 out of 32 possible data points listed by Apple. However, Rapido delivers the same service using only its user’s name, phone number, and location.
The index researched data collection practices of the 30 most known ride-hailing apps from the Apple Store and measured how much data the apps collect in three main pillars: 1) data that is not linked to a user's identity (such as app crash data); 2) data that could be linked to a user's identity (such as name); 3) data that could track users across apps and websites (such as user ID).
According to Surfshark's data sensitivity index, GrabTaxi ranks 1st on the list and collects 27 out of 32 possible data points listed by Apple, including contact, financial, location information, and user content (photos, video, audio, etc.).
Widely popular in Central Asia and countries like Russia, second on the list is Yandex Go, followed by the most popular ride-hailing app across most of the world, Uber. Together with Lyft (ranks 7th), Uber is the only ride-hailing app that additionally collects sensitive user information, which might include race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, childbirth information, and even biometric data.
On the other hand, the least data-hungry ride-hailing app in Surfshark’s data sensitivity index is an Indian service Rapido. It collects almost ten times less data than the leading GrabTaxi app and uses only its user's name, phone number, and location to deliver its services.
Rapido is followed by TaxiEU, which additionally collects some analytics data to improve their services like crash, performance, usage, product interaction, and similar data. And the third least data-hungry French taxi app LeCab, aside from app functionality and analytics data, also requires a physical address, precise location, and email address. While such data is considered private information, its collection is justifiable as it's also needed for the app to function.
Most researched apps usually share the device and user ID, product interaction information, and precise location with third parties. But the most data-hungry apps like GrabTaxi can additionally use contact and payment information, user’s content (photo, video, audio, etc.) and other user data for third-party marketing purposes.
Apps that collect comparatively less data have been found to share information with third parties as well. For example, the Curb app collects six types of data points which is 4,5 times less than GrabTaxi but still manages to share that data with third-party advertisers.