Privacy

What does Noom know about you?

Emma McGowan, 2 March 2021

Is the Noom weight loss app worth it?

If you’ve thought about weight loss in the past year or so — or if you’ve listened to a podcast or been on Instagram — you’ve probably heard of Noom. Noom is a new(ish) weight loss program that focuses less on calorie counting and more on the psychological aspects of living a healthier life. They’re all about educating users on how to make healthier food choices and workout more, which sounds pretty great to me.

I personally haven’t tried Noom, but I’ve been intrigued. So for this week’s What Does the Internet Know About Me?, I decided to do things a little differently. Instead of looking at a service that I currently use — and which therefore already had a bunch of information on me — I’m going to look at one I’m thinking about using, before signing up. I’m being proactive about my privacy! What a concept, right?

What Noom tracks

Noom tracks three main categories of data: personal information, health information, and device/webpage-related information. 

Personal information

  • First and last name
  • Personal profile
  • Email address
  • Mailing address
  • Telephone number
  • Username
  • Password

Health information

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Blood pressure (if provided)
  • Blood glucose (if provided)
  • Biometrics
  • Fitness level
  • Foods eaten 
  • Exercise (through the Health app or another third-party app)
  • Calories consumed

Device/webpage-related information

  • IP address
  • Browser
  • Operating system
  • Hardware
  • Mobile network information
  • URL that referred a user to Noom
  • Sites/areas visited in-app and on-site
  • Device location
  • Cookies
  • Third-party logins

What does Noom do with your data?

The primary thing Noom does with your data is use it to help you lose weight. That’s the obvious, right? It relies on all of the information you give it in order to analyze your food choices, your weight loss progress, and your fitness goals. 

However, like so many of the companies we’ve looked at in this series, Noom uses data for other purposes as well. And, unfortunately, their Privacy Policy is dense and full of legalese and statements that seem to contradict each other. Or, at the very least, seem designed to confuse the average user.

For example, they say that they “will not disclose any information Noom gathers from User on Noom’s Website, Mobile App and Services” but that’s immediately followed by the sentence “Except as set forth in this Privacy Policy, Noom does not share User’s Personal Information with third parties for those third parties’ direct marketing purposes.” 

In my opinion, those two sentences together are designed to make a user think that their data won’t be used for marketing purposes — except they really actually will. Because as we get further down in the Privacy Policy, we come across this sentence: “We may use a reputable third party to present or serve advertisements that you may see on the Service.” They also say that they may share personal info including performance measurements and that they may share info with law enforcement if asked.

Finally, Noom’s privacy policy says, “Noom may, from time to time, supplement the information Noom collects directly from User at the Website, Mobile App and through Services with outside records from third parties for various purposes, including to enhance Noom’s ability to serve User, to tailor Noom’s content to User and to offer User opportunities that may be of interest to User." In plain speak, that means they can exchange information with data aggregators in order to serve you more targeted advertisements.

What are you getting in exchange for your data? What are the tradeoffs? 

In exchange for your data (and $59 a month or $199 a year), users get access to food tracking, calorie counting, tips on healthy living, and personalized “coaches” to help them get toward their weight and fitness goals. 

So is it worth it? I guess for some people? But their slippery privacy policy (which, BTW, hasn’t been updated since 2018) and the fact that they charge users and still use personal data for advertising has me saying “no thanks” on this one. I’ll stick with MyFitnessPal and Fitbit for my own health goals rather than give more of my data away to another private company.