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Passive app tracking reveals hidden gems

Passive app tracking records a participant's smartphone usage. It can be used to track how they use apps or sites, or to acquire wider data sets depending on the research requirement. We frequently recruit participants for studies which involve smartphone usage being monitored in this way.

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and with data privacy in the spotlight due to GDPR, consumers are more engaged with what happens to their personal data and who accesses it than ever before.

As participants gain a greater understanding of the value of their personal data, it is increasingly important to reassure and appropriately remunerate them for insights collected in this way.

Self-reported behaviour is, of course, far less accurate than data collected via passive app tracking in real time. This hidden data can be invaluable to brands. Passive app tracking is a technique which will continue to be used and definitely adds value to a study when used alongside qualitative research techniques that provide a fuller picture of the participant’s online behaviour. It is essential, though, that as a research community we engage with what this means for participants.


Rachael Penny
Associate Director, Criteria Fieldwork Ltd

This article was first published in InBrief magazine, October 2018
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2018