Popular app pays users to walk it out

Students concerned with Sweatcoin's data tracking, distribution


Your next walk across campus can be cashed in for a Starbucks gift card thanks to a popular app.

Sweatcoin is a pedometer-like app that converts outdoor steps to credits. Users can spend credits on gifts in the Sweatcoin store, including Starbucks and Netflix gift cards, bookbags and even an iPhone 8.

For every 1,000 steps a user takes, Sweatcoin converts these steps into .95 credits. The more users invite others to join the app, the more credits they receive toward the store –– where products like the iPhone 8 cost 20,000 credits. Users can then spend the credits on themselves or donate their credits to a number of charities through the app.

Sweatcoin is the #1 most downloaded free Health and Fitness app in the App Store, as of Wednesday morning.

The app, however, is able to collect more than just your daily steps.

Sweatcoin users must allow the app to passively track their location whenever their phone is on. Sweatcoin’s privacy policy lists information such as names, phone numbers, emails, passwords and payment information as potential traits they can gather from users. The app may also be able to access user Facebook accounts and friends lists, if users allow contact searches through the app’s invite feature.

Furthermore, the app collects location-based information and Sweatcoin’s data may be stored and distributed to third parties, according to the app’s privacy policy.

Rachel Wright, a 1L law student, said she’s weary about the app based on its payment collection.

“I probably wouldn’t have any interest in using it. If I’m already agreeing to third parties taking my information and it also is acknowledging that it has my personal financial information, what’s stopping a third party from accessing that,” Wright said.

Users, however, have the ability to opt-out of marketing emails from the app, change the information Sweatcoin holds, request their information from Sweatcoin and delete their information/account with Sweatcoin.

Celina Gregory, a sophomore sociology and legal studies major, said she thinks it’s a good thing for Sweatcoin to give users control of their data.

“When you join any kind of social media, such as Snapchat and Instagram, there’s always a huge list of what [information] they can take from you. I feel like no one reads it, at least I know I don’t, ” Gregory said.

“Apps have control of information we don’t always know about, but with this app, you can at least control what they take from you which makes it more trustworthy.”

Wright said she sees the ability to opt-out and delete information as positive but has doubts about the validity of the app’s privacy policies.

“I’m not sure if some of the things on the policy can be legally upheld, so if you do run into issues, you could always take all that information to court,” Wright said.

Nicole Niedzielski, a senior photography major, said Sweatcoin isn’t different from other apps’ privacy policies and a number of gadgets, such as the Apple Watch, have similar methods of gathering information.

Niedzielski said she would use Sweatcoin only if the “tradeoff” between your data and gifts “was worth it.”

“You have a lot of apps that promise you rewards for using the app and sometimes it’s not worth the effort of using the app [nonstop],” Niedzielski said. “If I’m taking a certain amount of steps outdoors a day, I hope I could get a good tradeoff with some of the rewards they can give you.”

Benjamin Blanchet is a senior features editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com and @BenjaminUBSpec.


Benjamin Blanchet is a graduate student and student journalist based in Buffalo, New York. Aside from The Spectrum, Blanchet has appeared in Brooklyn’s ARTSY Magazine and New York’s RESPECT. Magazine.