Earlier this year, Qantas started offering Qantas Frequent Flyer points while you sleep. By downloading the Qantas Wellbeing App, you can use the sleep tracker feature to earn up to 5 Qantas points per night for sleeping.
Earning frequent flyer points for sleeping may seem like a good deal. But no loyalty program would award you with free points without getting something in return – that simply doesn’t make business sense. So, in the context of the current ACCC inquiry into loyalty schemes where privacy is a key concern, it’s worth asking: what is Qantas doing with your data?
How the Qantas Wellbeing App works
To earn 5 Qantas points each night via the Qantas Wellbeing app, you need to put your phone down at least 30 minutes before your designated bedtime and not move your phone until the following morning.
There’s no doubt that the Qantas Wellbeing app is a convenient way to earn a few extra Qantas Frequent Flyer points for exercising and maintaining a healthy sleep pattern. But for Qantas, the app also exists to promote Qantas’ insurance business. It does this by advertising Qantas Insurance in the app, as well as by rewarding users that hold a Qantas Insurance policy with a much higher rate of earning points. App users without an insurance policy only earn 0.5 Qantas points per night for successfully completing their sleep challenge, instead of 5 points.
The Qantas Insurance Privacy Statement details what data is collected in connection with the Qantas Wellbeing App, and how it may be used. The Privacy Statement says:
You consent to us collecting, using and disclosing any personal information including health and wellbeing information submitted by you through the Qantas Wellbeing App.
It also states:
We may use and disclose your personal information to any association or entity which we have contracted with to provide benefits to you (“Partners”) and any other person (including related bodies corporate, agents and contractors) for the purposes of:
us or any of our related bodies corporate, providing products or services, including the awarding of Qantas Points;
us or any of our related bodies corporate improving customer service, including by means of research, marketing, product development and planning;
us marketing our products or services or the products or services of third parties; and
any third party providing services to us, any of our related bodies corporate or other App users in connection with the administration of Qantas Wellbeing or the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.
Data that we access from HealthKit framework will not be used by Qantas, or shared with third parties, for the purpose of serving advertising.
Qantas will not disclose information gained through HealthKit framework to a third party without express permission from the user, and only for the purposes of providing a health or fitness service to the user.
In other words, Qantas won’t use your step count to advertise to you, nor sell this information to third parties. But this same guarantee does not apply to data which is not collected via Apple HealthKit.
A Qantas spokesperson told Australian Frequent Flyer that “we collect health and activity data through the Qantas Wellbeing App to help members understand and track progress to improve their health and wellbeing. We also use the data to understand how we can optimise our wellbeing program to incentivise healthier behaviour.”
We also asked Qantas whether data from the Wellbeing App is sold or otherwise provided to third parties. The Qantas spokesperson told us, “We do not sell any personal information to third parties.”
Privacy concerns with health and fitness Apps
Although we have no reason to believe that Qantas is necessarily sharing data about your sleeping habits with third parties, there have been renewed calls for greater transparency about data sharing by health and fitness Apps in general. According to some experts, the increased sharing of sensitive health data by App developers poses an “unprecedented risk” to peoples’ privacy.
No company would just give away frequent flyer points for sleeping because they’re feeling generous. It costs Qantas money to issue points, so there must be a good reason for it.
Qantas collects your entire internet browsing history when you use in-flight wifi
Of course, Qantas (and most large companies) collects data about its customers from many other sources as well. One of these is the airline’s in-flight wifi system. When you connect to Qantas’ free wifi on board a flight, you have to agree to hand over information including your complete internet browsing history to Qantas. The airline openly discloses in the wifi terms & conditions that it uses this information, among other things, for “marketing activities and research”.
In life, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If a product is free, it’s often the case that you are the product.
There is some discussion about the Qantas Wellbeing App on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Making an extra 6000-8000+ points by connecting a step tracker