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GasBuddy App Finds Cheap Gas at Potential Cost to Your Privacy

GasBuddy App Finds Cheap Gas at Potential Cost to Your Privacy
GasBuddy App Finds Cheap Gas at Potential Cost to Your Privacy
  • Free apps can have a cost, and with GasBuddy, the cost is letting advertisers know who and where you are.
  • The app can even collect information on how you drive.
  • There's a workaround, though, if you're willing to make a few changes.

    GasBuddy is a popular website and app for drivers looking for the cheapest gas. To do this, the app figures out where you are and then shows nearby results. But buried inside this service is a way for GasBuddy to collect data that it then sells to advertisers, even when the app is in the background. This is the reason that Popular Mechanics recently added GasBuddy to its list of apps you should delete from your phone right now.

    Last December, information about a 2017 lawsuit involving GasBuddy became public. GasBuddy was in a dispute with Reveal Mobile, a location-based marketing company. The two companies agreed in March 2017 to a deal where GasBuddy sold location data of its users to Reveal for $9.50 per 1000 users. That information included "users' latitude, longitude, IP address, and time stamps on the data collected," even if you were not using the GasBuddy app, according to CNET. According to court documents made public in the case, GasBuddy sold information on more than 4.5 million users to Reveal each month.

    GasBuddy says that it only shares information with third parties "who really need [it] in order to perform their tasks and duties" and those "who have a legitimate purpose for accessing it." GasBuddy also says it keeps user data "as long as it is necessary and relevant for our operations."

    Opting in to GasBuddy's optional services can reveal even more information. Using the app's "Drives" feature, for example, means the company will "automatically collect information about your driving habits, including, but not limited to, driving distance, speed, acceleration and braking habits . . . Such collection occurs even if you are not logged in to the Service," according to GasBuddy's privacy policy. It's important to note, too, that it's not just GasBuddy: a New York Times investigation into data-collection practices showed that tracking a user's location is widespread among apps.

    GasBuddy did not respond to Car and Driver's request for comment, but a spokesperson told CNET last year that, since GasBuddy is a free app, "we depend on advertising and data licensing."

    We do have a solution for you if you really like GasBuddy but want to keep as much information as possible from the company: use the website in an incognito or private browser. That way, you can search for cheaper gas by ZIP code instead of just letting the app know exactly where—and who—you are.