Investigation: Are Personal Productivity Apps Safe?

Posted on Dec 13, 2023 by Kristin Hassel

It makes sense that at some point, the guilt of using apps for games, social media, and selfies would spawn the need for personal productivity apps. There are hundreds of options to help you schedule and keep appointments, stay in contact with your family, create (and actually remember) your shopping list, and stay on track with your physical and mental health – all from your phone or smartwatch.

But is all the personal information you share with these apps safe? We decided to test personal productivity apps users rated highly to see just how secure they really are.

Why We Decided to Investigate

Personal productivity apps are a great way to organize mundane tasks, stick to your workout regime, or help manage your mental health. Reminders via push notifications, SMS, or email are a convenient way to stay on track without much effort. We were curious about just how safe these apps are, especially considering how much of our lives are entered into them daily. 

After all, productivity apps are no different than any other app you enter personal information into, so if you’re not careful, there’s plenty that could go wrong. Between cybercriminals, shady data collection and sharing policies, and poor security practices, your information could end up practically anywhere. Additionally, as with all apps, productivity apps could have malware like spyware and viruses built into them that could steal your personal information or be used to control your device. 

This is why it’s crucial to pay attention to app data collection and security practices. After all, depending on what type of app you’re using, they could store your work schedule, dietary habits, when and where you go on vacation, personal thoughts and feelings, and more. 

Are they collecting unnecessary personal information? Do they store it and use it later? Do they encrypt your data? Seems like important information to have, so we got to researching various categories of personal productivity apps to find out if they do more than help you plan and organize your life.

How We Chose Which Apps to Review

Instead of choosing only editors’ choices or apps with the highest number of downloads, we wanted to find apps users rank highly that have a significant number of reviews. Some apps pay individuals to write good reviews, so a large volume of reviews is a good indicator that most are from actual users. 

While downloads can be a good indicator of popularity, unfortunately, they don’t show you how many people later uninstalled apps. Besides, an app could have a billion downloads, a million reviews… and a two-star user rating. 

The following apps were found to have some of the highest user ratings, reviews, and downloads in Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Some are editors’ choices and rank in the top 10 for their respective categories, but we tried to focus solely on user feedback when choosing apps to investigate as it’s a better indicator of the app’s popularity. 

Users Enjoy These Apps — But Are They Secure?

To determine the safety and privacy of each app, we evaluated its data collection and security practices in depth and reviewed its privacy policy. Apps were then given a rating of Recommended (safe) or Not recommended (unsafe), and we included detailed information regarding any unsafe practices. Let’s take a look at the results. 

AI Chat Assistant

AI Chat is the second top grossing app for productivity, but is it safe?

    Google PlayStore: 4.4 ⭐, 62K reviews, 1M+ downloads
    Apple App Store: 4.6 ⭐, 127 ratings

AI Chat Assistant is a personal chatbot assistant that uses your input and the AI’s existing database to tailor its answers to your input. You can choose between business, content, writing, interview, and other types of assistants. The app can do everything from explaining tricky concepts and helping you write music to developing ideas for party themes and social media posts based on the data you provide. 

On the app’s page in the app stores, it says it only shares crash logs for analytics purposes. It also states that data collected includes messages and device or other IDs, but that it only uses them to improve app functionality and manage your account. 

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Most of its true data practices are hidden in its privacy policy, which states it collects your name and email, usage stats, and device information. It goes on to say it takes “reasonable” measures to protect your personal information from unauthorized access, but doesn’t say what those measures are aside from encrypting your data during transit.

The app may also share your data with third parties if required by law, to protect its rights and property, and for research or analytical purposes. You can request your data be deleted by filling out a form, but by then, it could already be too late to prevent sharing.

Our safety rating: Not recommended 👎


 ChatGPT is a popular generative AI app, but it shares plenty with third parties.

    Google PlayStore: 4.8 ⭐, 260K reviews, 10M+ downloads
    Apple App Store: 4.9 ⭐, 435K+ ratings

ChatGPT can also be a useful tool when it comes to personal productivity. It can help you plan a party or learn a new language, plan your travel itinerary, or give you personalized advice based on your prompts. It also comes in handy for getting personalized information on how to improve your productivity – just enter your input as if you were talking to a friend and ask it for whatever you need help with.

On its landing page, the app states it doesn’t share data with third parties, but this isn’t the case. OpenAI, the company that created ChatGPT, has a detailed privacy policy that states it may provide your personal information to third parties without notice unless the law requires it. These third parties include vendors and service providers, other businesses, government or law enforcement agencies, its affiliates, and more.

This is troubling because the app collects your approximate location, name, email, messages (you can opt out of this), and app activity. You can request the company remove your personal information by filling out a form on the Privacy Policy page of OpenAI’s website. You do get some protection though: the app encrypts data in transit — but that’s not enough to consider it to be safe.

Our safety rating: Not recommended 👎


It may rank eighth in productivity, but its data collection policies are transparent.
It may rank eighth in productivity, but its data collection policies are transparent.

    Google PlayStore: 4.4 ⭐, 2M reviews, 1B+ downloads
    Apple App Store: 4.8 ⭐, 393K ratings

Dropbox is a convenient way to organize videos, photos, documents, and more. You can also scan receipts into PDF format to track spending or for tax purposes, making it a breeze to stay on top of your finances. Sharing is easy, too: just send the link to any Dropbox folder or item to anyone you want to give access to — they don’t even need a Dropbox account to view them.

Its privacy policy and data collection practices are extremely transparent. The app even provides a transparency report and lets you opt out of several forms of data collection, as well as allowing you to delete your data. 

The app does collect your name, email, user ID, financial info (including any credit cards or other payment methods you use in-app), activity and performance information, and device ID, but only your email is shared with third parties. This isn’t a huge deal because you can use a throwaway email address. Your data is encrypted in transit and you can opt out of the app collecting photos and video, audio, files and documents, and contacts. 

Our safety rating: Recommended 👍

Google Calendar

This calendar app is extremely popular, but you’ll want to change your privacy settings.

    Google PlayStore: 4.4 ⭐, 2M reviews, 5B+ downloads
    Apple App Store: 4.6 ⭐, 113K+ ratings

Google Calendar can help you avoid missing important appointments, meetings, events, and special occasions. You can schedule repeat events and get reminders via email or prompt notifications. It also offers the option to sync your calendar to your email and share events you create with your contacts.

The app doesn’t share your data with third parties, and you get privacy controls that allow you to determine just how much data Google collects. You can review, delete, and control information about your activities, advertising preferences, personal information, and the sites and apps you use. Its security practices have also been independently reviewed, and the report is available to view.

That said, it does collect app location, name, email, user ID, address, phone number, and other personal information. However, it encrypts your information in transit and at rest, and allows you to opt out of the collection of messages, photos, videos, and contact data. The privacy policy is very detailed and your personally identifiable information is not shared with third parties. This means as long as you modify your privacy controls to prevent as much data collection as possible, there’s no reason you can’t use this app safely.

Our safety rating: Recommended 👍


Gratitude only uses local storage, but add a VPN to increase overall safety.

    Google PlayStore: 4.9 ⭐, 85K reviews, 1M+ downloads
    Apple App Store: 4.9 ⭐, 34K+ ratings

Gratitude gives you a space to process your thoughts and de-stress. The app provides a gratitude journal to help you reflect on the good aspects of your day and positive affirmations to keep you motivated. It lets you create a vision board to help you remain on-task with your yearly goals, and check out Daily Zen for inspirational quotes, articles, and more.

Right off the bat, this app offers no form of encryption. This might be scarier if any of the personal information you entered wasn’t stored locally on your device, but it’s all stored locally, preventing any transit issues. The only information it collects by default is your user ID; providing your email address and phone number is completely optional. 

All in-app purchases are done through your OS’s app store, too, so it doesn’t store any financial information. This means the app doesn’t get your name, address, or any other personally identifiable information. If you decide to delete the app, all entered data is erased. 

You have to consent to any type of data collection, even app data used for analytics purposes. It also provides a list of all third-party services it uses and what information it may share with them (if you give consent to do so) in its privacy policy, as well as links to those services. Despite at first seeming like it may not provide adequate privacy and security, this app is perfectly safe.

Our safety rating: Recommended 👍


Gamifying your life may not be a good idea if it means sacrificing your privacy.

    Google PlayStore: 3.8 ⭐, 24K reviews, 1M+ downloads
    Apple App Store: 4.0 ⭐, 1K+ ratings

Habitica allows you to gamify your everyday tasks, chores, and goals. You can build an avatar and complete tasks to receive gold to get items for the game. It offers options like color coding schedules, reminders that help you stay on task, or simple list building. The app also lets you sync your data across devices.

The basic data collection practices listed on the app’s landing page only include the collection of your user ID, crash logs, diagnostics, email, and device and other IDs. Once you dig into the privacy policy, you’ll see it collects far more information. According to the privacy policy, the app collects logs and records data every time you access its server.

The app collects logs including your device’s IP address, operating system, browser version, any pages you click on while using the app, time spent on the service, and other performance and usage data. Some of the language in the privacy policy is also very vague. It also states some of your information may be shared with analytics providers, advertisers, marketers, and other third parties.

The app only allows you to opt out of the collection of your geolocation and request data be deleted. While the app is fun and easy to use, the fact that it encrypts your data in transit isn’t enough to make it safe — especially considering how much of your data it collects.

Our safety rating: Not recommended 👎

Me + Daily Routine Planner

Me+ lets you and others track your habits (and more).

    Google PlayStore: 4.7 ⭐, 81K reviews, 1M+ downloads
    Apple App Store: 4.8 ⭐, 82K ratings

Me+ allows you to track your habits, moods, and progress on goals to help you remain productive. The app includes a daily planner and self-care information. It also lets you set reminders for reaching your goals and scheduled events, as well as create basic to do lists.

The data collection practices on the app landing page in the Play Store claim it doesn’t share any data with third parties. It also states it only collects analytics data like crash logs and other app performance information, but the privacy policy makes that statement misleading. 

According to the privacy policy, the app may automatically collect your IP address, user settings, device information, mobile carrier, ad ID, browser, approximate location, and the name of your ISP.  It may also collect information from iOS’s Health Kit, including but not limited to your birthdate, heart rate, sex, weight, and workouts. Unfortunately, it never says if Health Kit information is auto-collected. 

Personal information is only collected to tailor ads to your likes and dislikes, but the app states it doesn’t share it with third parties. However, auto-collected data may be used for marketing and advertising purposes. The lack of clarity on what data is shared with third parties, and the fact it doesn’t allow you to submit a data deletion request, makes this app a no for us.

Our safety rating: Not recommended 👎


Meet with anyone, from anywhere to stay on top of goals.

    Google PlayStore: 4.1 ⭐, 3M reviews, 1B+ downloads
    Apple App Store: 4.6 ⭐, 25M ratings

Zoom lets you connect with family, friends, or co-workers anywhere you go. You can set up group chats with your buds or relay important information to your team. If your physical or mental health providers allow e-visits, you can also use it to cut time spent driving to and from appointments. 

Zoom collects personal data including your location, name, email address, user ID, physical address, phone number, and financial information. While that’s almost an exorbitant amount of data, your data is only shared with third parties if you consent. 

In addition, you can download a VPN to hide your real location, and avoiding purchases in-app means the service never gets your financial information. The app also encrypts all data in transit. You can choose whether or not to allow the service to collect photo and video, audio, file and document, calendar, and contact data. 

The app’s privacy policy pretty much reiterates what its data collection and security practices on the app’s landing page says. It’s very straightforward about what data the app collects and how the company uses it and the language is clear and precise, making this a good choice, as long as you make sure to change privacy preferences immediately.

Our safety rating: Recommended 👍

Make Sure You’re Informed

The apps we reviewed above are just a drop in the pond. So many personal productivity apps are available, and new ones are created daily. Some are safe, and some aren’t, just like any other app.

If you take anything from this article it should be to always check data collection and security practices for any productivity app you use. Yes, reading privacy policies can be a bore. Still, the landing pages in your device’s app store don’t provide the full gamut of information about what data these apps collect, and many of them omit information available in their privacy policies. That’s why it’s crucial to give policies a once-over before committing to an app.