Is Bitmoji a Threat to Your Privacy?
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Bitmoji was the number one most-downloaded app from Apple’s App Store in 2017. Millions of people have downloaded the app to create goofy, cute representations of themselves to share with friends and family.

But what information does Bitmoji collect? Who does the company share that information with? And why does Bitmoji need full keyboard access?

After asking a number of these privacy questions, I thought I’d dig into Snap, Inc.’s privacy policy to see if I could find the answer. Here’s what I found out.

Bitmoji and Snapchat

First of all, I wasn’t aware that Bitmoji and Snapchat were made by the same company. Snap, Inc. owns both of these apps. Bitmoji was originally designed by a company called Bitstrips, and that company was acquired by Snap, Inc. That’s one of the reasons why they’re so easy to use together New to Snapchat? These 10 Tips and Tricks Will Help You Out New to Snapchat? These 10 Tips and Tricks Will Help You Out Snapchat has a ton of features that you probably don't know about. These are great for beginners and experts alike! Read More .

Is this a big issue? No. Just something I wasn’t aware of. And if you’re concerned about single companies collecting a lot of your data, it’s something worth noting.

Bitmoji’s Full Keyboard Access

This is something that worries many people. When you install Bitmoji, it asks for full keyboard access. Apple always gives you a warning when an app requests full keyboard access.

bitmoji is a threat to your privacy

In short, this is because it’s possible that the developer of a third-party keyboard app 9 Alternative iOS Keyboards To Make Your Typing Easier Or More Fun 9 Alternative iOS Keyboards To Make Your Typing Easier Or More Fun When Apple finally stopped acting like an overprotective parent and introduced third-party keyboards, everyone went keyboard-crazy. Read More could be tracking everything you type. If they have full access to your keyboard app, they can do pretty much whatever they want with that app.

Does that mean they’re tracking everything you type? No. It just means that it’s a possibility. Still, it’s a pretty alarming possibility.

What does Bitmoji have to say about this?

“We ask for Full Access permission so that we can download your custom Bitmoji images from our servers. Bitmoji Keyboard can’t read or access anything you type using your iPhone keyboard or any other third-party keyboard.”

While you have to take their word for it, the fact that they unequivocally state that they’re not accessing anything you type is certainly reassuring. Because the Bitmoji keyboard isn’t a regular keyboard, they probably only have access to the Bitmojis you send, and not anything you type.

So in the end, this alarming notification is actually nothing to worry about.

Bitmoji’s Android Permissions

While the Full Access warning is all you’ll get on iOS, you can see more details of Bitmoji’s permissions on Android. They’re a bit surprising, as they include phone status and identity, a lot of storage access, and camera/microphone permissions as well.

bitmoji is a threat to your privacy

It’s a little strange that Bitmoji is asking for permissions related to your calls and your microphone. It can look at your list of running apps too, though this could be because Bitmoji interacts with Snapchat and the Google Keyboard.

These permissions don’t send up any huge red flags The Seven Deadly Android Permissions: How to Avoid the Sin of Slothful Preparedness The Seven Deadly Android Permissions: How to Avoid the Sin of Slothful Preparedness Everyone with an Android device should know that your private information isn’t treated as private. For example, making an app purchase may expose personal contact information, including one’s name, physical address and email address, to... Read More , but some of them are a little suspect. In all likelihood, they exist to collect more information that can be turned into advertising money.

What Information Does Bitmoji Collect?

Okay, so Bitmoji isn’t reading your texts. But they are collecting data. So what are they collecting? Their privacy policy says they collect three types of data:

1. Information You Choose to Give

This is all the basic stuff that you given to Snap, Inc. when you use their services. Things like your name, email address, phone number, and date of birth.

It also includes the snaps you send through Snapchat, the details of your Bitmoji, and things like that. And it can include your credit card number if you buy anything through their services.

All of this is pretty standard and obvious.

2. Information When You Use Their Services

Snap, Inc. collects data on how you use their apps — again, standard for developers. The clothes you put on your Bitmoji, the Bitmojis you send most often, the filters you use on Snapchat The Full Snapchat Filters List and the Best Ones to Use The Full Snapchat Filters List and the Best Ones to Use If you want to pick the best Snapchat filter for your photos, you should know what options are out there -- and we've got you covered. Read More , the ads you see, and things like that are all fair game.

So is information about your phone: the make and model, the operating system and version, the apps you’ve installed, your service provider, and so on. It also collects physical information from the gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass. Location information is also collected when you use their services (with your consent).

As you might expect, much of the information collected has to do with ads How Facebook Makes Money and the Economics of Social Networks How Facebook Makes Money and the Economics of Social Networks Facebook has become one of the world's largest companies. It generates insane revenues, and holds a significant amount of data on anyone that has signed up. But where does all that money come from? Read More . Where you are, what you do with the apps, how long you look at certain ads, which ads you tap on, and so on.

And there are cookies, web beacons, storage, and similar tracking technologies that Snap, Inc. uses on their website.

3. Information From Third Parties

In addition to data from you, Snap, Inc. gets information from other places. They might combine your phone number from someone else’s phone with information they got from one of their affiliates to create a more complete profile. They also state that “We may also obtain information from our affiliates, or any other third-party sources, and combine that with the information we collect through our services.”

That’s pretty nebulous, and doesn’t give you a whole lot of idea what kind of information they’re getting from third parties or what they’re doing with it.

Does that make it nefarious? Probably not. But it’s not quite as straightforward an answer as they give to other questions.

What Happens to That Information?

Most of you information is used for two purposes: to improve the app and to target ads.

Improving the app might include things like seeing which Bitmoji are the most popular so they can design more that are similar. Or putting the most popular options at the top of the menus. Things like that.

Targeting ads, of course, is where Snap, Inc. earns their money. The more information they collect, the better they can target ads. That’s what free apps and services are all about. So that should come as no surprise. Snap, Inc. has a huge number of advertising and analytics partners, and they offer extremely detailed analytics to companies. (If you’re curious, check out Snapchat for Business.)

bitmoji is a threat to your privacy

Snap, Inc. notes that information you provide could be going directly to a third party, and that they’re not responsible for what happens to your information once it’s passed on. They also make it clear that information collected by third-party companies from their apps could be combined with information gathered from other sources.

The vast majority of that type of information, though, is likely coming from Snapchat, not Bitmoji.

Is Bitmoji a Privacy Threat?

All of this sounds exactly like the permissions granted to any other app. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t privacy concerns. For example, Snap Map has caused a lot of consternation among privacy advocates for sharing people’s location without their knowledge.

Just because Bitmoji has pretty standard permissions and data-sharing agreements doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on your toes when it comes to your privacy.

To be completely honest, I was expecting to find more evidence of nefarious Bitmoji information-mongering. A quick look at Bitmoji’s Android permissions raises a concern or two, but nothing major. The fact that it’s a messaging app means some of those permissions make sense, though it’s usually used simply as a keyboard.

And it’s obvious that Snap, Inc. is really big into advertising on the Snapchat platform. That’s no surprise 12 Surprising Things All Snapchat Users Should Know 12 Surprising Things All Snapchat Users Should Know Honestly, from cryptic smiley faces to the elusive replay feature my enjoyment of Snapchat is always tempered by the sneaking suspicion that I'm missing out on something. Read More . Bitmoji is only peripherally connected to Snapchat, but there’s a chance it’ll try to get you to sign up for the service. And once you’re there, the company will get a whole lot more data to sell to advertisers.

One criticism that I have with Bitmoji’s privacy policy is that Snap, Inc. only has one policy. Bitmoji doesn’t collect all of the same information as Snapchat, so this makes it a bit more difficult to figure out what it’s grabbing. It would be much easier if there were two policies. That being said, Snap, Inc. does seem to be committed to a reasonable level of privacy in its apps.

All in all, though — and I’m a little surprised to be saying this — Bitmoji seems pretty harmless from a privacy standpoint.

Were you one of the millions who downloaded Bitmoji this year? Did you give any thought to your security and privacy when you did? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Image Credit: ooGleb/Depositphotos

Explore more about: Online Privacy, Smartphone Security, Surveillance.

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  1. Tina Links
    May 22, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Thank you for your help and research - it is however, alarming what IS available and that most people allow it. Downloading a free app should not equal giving away location and private information (like messages) - in this age people are allowing without thinking/caring instead of demanding more privacy.

  2. Dee
    April 19, 2018 at 1:50 am

    I have been quite taken with the Bitmoji by Bitstrips. I was going to Install the Bitmoji app. I decided to read through Alll the permission's pages. The more I read the more uneasy I became. I do want it yet was reluctant to Install it. So I began an online search with any information regarding Privacy issues with this app and found this site. The information found here regarding my concern was immensely of help. Also, this site addresses so many more questions and concerns that prompts me to sign up for regular updates. Many Thanks!

  3. angela
    February 3, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    i'm new to Bitmoji and have opted in my General Keyboard Settings for Bitmoji to not allow for full access. It appears that I''m still able to use the app. Doesn't that allow for better privacy?

    • deb
      February 21, 2018 at 11:24 pm

      i did which is why i researched and read your most informative article! Thank you so very much. i am a great believer in privacy. ?