Are You the Product or the Consumer?
August 12, 2013
By Stephen Mickelsen, Mobile Application Architect, Humetrix

Free apps. Everyone loves them. But how many of us are thinking about why they’re free?

We all know that in Facebook’s case, we’re not actually the customer – we’re the product that’s being sold to advertisers. That’s why consumer outrage over privacy or new features falls on deaf ears. We’re not paying to use the service – but advertisers are.

Gmail is another example. It is a fantastic service. So why is it free? Google mines every email for keywords – and sells that information to advertisers across the web. A business has to make money, and if it is being offered to consumers for free, users would be wise to think about how the company offering the app is making money.

In the realm of healthcare apps, this is even more important. Drug companies would love to know what medications you take, or what conditions you may have so that they can market to you. The terms and conditions of free apps often allow the providers of the app to share some of your data with third parties – in fact, if the apps is free, you can bet on the fact that they’re going to do so.

So when looking at health-related apps, paying a fee may be well-worth it in order to know that you control your own data. Look for apps that charge a fee, and whenever possible, allow the data to live on your device, rather than a bunch of servers at the app developer’s company.

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