Facebook has discontinued its fitness app Moves, Android contact app Hello, and tbh polling app for teens.

Facebook stated that the decision to shut down these apps is due to the low number of users. Launched in 2014, Moves records the daily activities, including walking, cycling, and running. Facebook did not release any number on how many users have used this app. This behavior of app retirement because of low usage is a critical issue not only from the privacy and security issue but also from the health research point view. The privacy and security issue is crucial for users because they have a vested interest to know how they are going to access their data and what is going to happen to their data in the future. For instance, the Moves landing page does not provide an option to login into users page, and Facebook in its blog release stated that it will delete all the users’ data within 90 days. The decision to delete the data is the norm in most circumstances, however, deleting the data can create a legal issue since one criminal investigation have used Fitbit data, and helped the investigators determine the killer. Therefore, the legal system has a contingent interest to keep the data stored for any potential and future criminal investigations.

In healthcare research, some studies have used data collected from these apps before they become retired. This lack of access to the data from these apps can create a future problem to validate the results from studies that used these app data.

For instance, Knight et al. (2018)  have used Moves to investigate the association between the data collected from Moves mainly the number of hours spent on daily activities and the self-reported data on mental health. More than half of the participants used Moves to track their physical activity. The study provided interesting highlights how Reachout.com, an online mental health support platform targeted at Australian young adults between 13 and 25, use their apps and what type of wearables they are using.

The moral of this blog is to understand the tradeoff between data privacy and security and what is the best way to deal with data from retiring apps, and who should own the data after the apps are retired or discontinued.