The Insatiable Data Gluttony That Is
The Weight Watchers Mobile App
In our forthcoming book, Cyber Survival Manual: From Identity Theft to The Digital Apocalypse and Everything in Between, Heather Vescent and I discuss mobile application settings and how they can be unfair to users by consuming more data than they actually need to provide the service the app provides.
Usually, this is done on apps that are free - the point is, if you don’t pay for the app, you pay for it with your data. Some consider this a good trade. I don’t.
Weight Watchers is perhaps the most trusted name in weight loss programs. You pay Weight Watchers for access to their knowledge, and their tips and tricks.
Their mobile app has some fascinating features, like the ability to scan a UPC barcode and get a readout of how many SmartPoints that product contains. That’s cool.
Here’s what’s not cool: ironically, the Weight Watchers Mobile app may be the most voracious data gobbling application on the planet. For an app designed to tell you how not to eat too much, the Weight Watchers Mobile app is itself a data sensualist; a personal information gorger; a mobile porker of epic proportions.
It commandeers your identity, locating and consuming all details of every account on your device, and every contact you have, and exactly where you are at all times, and every single person you call, and every single person who has called you.
Then this calorie-counter gets greedy.
Let’s try and consider why Weight Watchers would want to know who calls you.
It’s reasonable that it requires you to provide it full access to the contents of your storage (since it needs to save your profile and meals and other information), and reasonable as well to allow it to take photos and videos.
I suppose it’s reasonable that Weight Watcher wants to see your WiFi connection information – after all, it needs to communicate on the network.
But in the coup d’état that was its installation, Weight Watchers already took full permission to use your network – each and every network you connect to, along with the ability to manage your document storage, receive data from the Internet, and view all your network connections. And why does it need to view all your WiFi connections? All of them?
And let’s talk unmitigated greed: Weight Watchers also demands that you provide them the ability to run their app at startup, prevent the device from sleeping, and control basically the entire device, especially and specifically including the flashlight.
There is a word in the industry for this kind of application.
A software package that gobbles up the ability to run each and every aspect of the device, control when and how it starts, and run all communications, to monitor all communications in voice and data, and send and receive messages at will in all forms up to and actually, literally, including semaphore, and survive a reboot?
We refer to this as a rootkit.
Shame on Weight Watchers for abusing its customers in this way.