Over on the Unclutterer blog a new contributor Deb Lee has done a review of the Unstuck iPad app. It is a free app that asks a lot of questions about how you are stuck with a problem and then offers some suggestions that might help you get unstuck. Deb is impressed with the app and no doubt sees it as a real bargain as there is no charge. She mentions when she tried it that the app told her what percentage of users had a similar problem and even mentioned what celebrities like Ellen Degeneres fit the same profile (in her case the label of waffler was given).
I had previously downloaded this app and while I found it interesting and even potentially useful what was disturbing is that the terms of service states that all the information you enter into the app become the property of the developers to use as they please. That may not seem that bad if your results are mixed into the statistics provided but if you ever become unstuck enough to become a celebrity you could be singled out as a person who is an example of different types of stuck. To me this is a significant privacy concern if a person isn’t aware that they are giving up rights to their personal stuck data.
This is yet another example of the principle that it is rare that anything is truly free and you should check into the business model for any gift. Actually you are paying for the app by releasing your private information for the company to use. In general people seem to underestimate just how valuable this information can be. Detailed personal information can be invaluable to influence and sell to people.
If anything these types of business cases will become even more prevalent and undercover with the gamification of apps to make them more influential and collect more information in more subtle ways. You may think you are just playing a game for entertainment while what is also happening is that the “game” has been sponsored by an entity which is trying to influence you and collect information to be even more influential in your future purchases and decisions. It is necessary to protect against this by having companies disclose their sources of funding and data dispersal policies much like food products are required to provide their ingredients so people can decide if it is healthy for them.