Digital democracy|Digital privacy
How much do crypto apps know about you?
Anonymity is the basis of cryptocurrency, but how anonymous are the apps that you use to manage your crypto assets? The IRS recently demanded that the crypto app Kraken release data on some of its users¹. And Robinhood — a popular app for managing investments, including crypto — suffered a massive data breach a couple of years ago². These events show how important it is to know how much data you’re sharing with the apps you use, specifically the ones handling your crypto investments. Surfshark takes a look at the 15 most popular cryptocurrency apps and reveals how much data each of them collects.
- Among the 15 popular cryptocurrency apps, Robinhood, which experienced a significant data leak of at least five million users², stands out as the most data-hungry. It collects 25 out of 32 possible user data points. Following Robinhood, Crypto.com collects 20 data points, and Coinbase gathers 18. However, some apps adopt a more privacy-oriented approach: Trust collects 1 out of 32 data points, while Bybit and Binance gather four each.
- Interestingly, Binance.US — a separate exchange created specifically for U.S. customers to comply with U.S. regulations — collects four times more data than the global exchange app Binance. Binance seems to be more anonymous as it does not collect any contact information, whereas Binance.US collects it all — name, email address, phone number, and physical address.
- The main issue lies not only in the volume of data collected but also in how that data is managed. Eight of these apps use collected data to track users, which can be done by sharing user data with third-party advertisers or even data brokers³. Binance.US takes the lead in this category, using almost two-thirds of collected user data for tracking purposes. Meanwhile, its global version Binance uses only one data point to track its users.
- Public blockchains are not as anonymous as many would think⁴, and the extensive data collected by crypto apps exacerbates this. 10 out of 15 analyzed apps collect data that is linked to the user’s identity. Kraken — which is about to turn over customer data to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)¹ — is one of those apps. It collects 11 unique data points. Ten of these are linked to the user, including financial information, photos or videos, and product interaction data.
Methodology and sources
We analyzed 15 popular cryptocurrency apps selected from the AppMagic platform with the most downloads in 2023 in Western countries. The data collection information for each app was sourced from its Apple App Store page on November 7th, 2023. The App Store provides a list of 32 unique data points grouped into 12 categories. We analyzed the data set according to the number and handling of the data points collected by each app.For the complete research material behind this study, visit here.