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If you are not concerned with ads & data scraping, Pi seems safe

Pi Network’s privacy policy lays out a data collection and sharing policy for building an advertising business with limited concern for its users’ privacy. Its observable data collection and sharing efforts are also in line with its privacy policy.

We wouldn’t advise users who value their privacy to be using the app if they don’t expect to gain significant benefits from the app.

However, Pi Network’s data collection approach is similar to other social networks like Facebook in the sense that they collect almost all data they can get from users and use them in optimizing advertising. So users who do not value their privacy do not have much more to lose by using the app if they are using social media apps. They can view the app as safe by their criteria.

What is Pi Networks’ privacy policy?

They collect users’:

  • Personal data: Contact and identity information (e.g. email address)
  • App usage data:
    • Correspondence with the app including responses to surveys
    • Other app usage information
  • Advertising related data: Marketing information including how you engage with ads

With these, they build detailed user profiles including device information (e.g. hardware, OS version), their contacts (i.e. their phonebook), location, log information (e.g. access times, usage). They can share all of this data with advertisers after de-identification or aggregation however there are no details on how such de-identification or aggregation would be performed.

We don’t like the fact that these policies are listed on the Pi Network app developer, SocialChain’s website rather than the Pi Network website. This confuses users who think that these privacy policies do not apply to app users, as seen in a Redditor’s comment.

What data does Pi Network collect?

We haven’t analyzed the data packages sent. However, one of our readers reviewed the permissions that the app takes and it includes quite broad permissions. On top of these permissions, all data shared while using the app could be collected. These are in line with the broad data collection policies outlined in their privacy policy.

Please note that there are 2 types of Android permissions on a high level:

  • Normal permissions: The app can take them without requesting permission from the user. Advertising apps make broad use of these permissions and Pi Network does the same.
  • Dangerous permissions: User needs to explicitly allow the app to use these permissions. You can see them highlighted in the image below

Normal permissions

These permissions include:

  • View wifi & network connections (ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE, ACCESS_WIFI_STATE)
  • Run at startup (RECEIVE_BOOT_COMPLETED)
  • Read settings & shortcuts in home (READ_SETTINGS)
  • Recognize where the app was installed from (BIND_GET_INSTALL_REFERRER_SERVICE)
  • And other permissions as outlined by the Exodus Privacy team

Dangerous permissions

Users need to explicitly enable permissions including these:

  • Read contact information (READ_CONTACTS)
  • Change system settings (WRITE_SETTINGS)

This is based on static review of the Android app. So this is not proof that these permissions are being used. It indicates intention by the app developer to collect these data points. We focused on the Android app since that is what most users use.

Who does Pi Network share this data with?

Pretty much any advertising platform including

  • Advertising and monetization services, some of which include analytics & user profiling capabilities: AppLovin, ironSource, OneSignal, Pangle, Tapjoy. For example, AdColony delivers full screen video ads in the app
  • Trackers of tech giant’s advertising platforms: Facebook Ads, Google AdMob

Same disclaimers as the above analysis apply as these results are based on static code analysis. For the full list, feel free to check Exodus Privacy’s analysis.

Please note that this is by no means a full list. Pi Network could sell the data to advertisers in bulk. These analyses are only looking at the marketing trackers embedded in the app.

Try it yourself

You can replicate the analysis by

  • Installing AppManager an open source Android package manager.
  • Analyzing version 1.30.3 of the Android Pi Network app

Or you can check out the app on Play Store to see some of the more invasive permissions that it requests.

What do you stand to lose from using Pi Network?

The more data is shared, the more value it generates. As more users use the data to generate value, there is more value generated. However, if the data source is negatively impacted by the use of data, then the more its data is used, the more it is harmed. For example, the more parties discover data about a location with valuable oil reserves, the more likely it becomes that someone will buy the area and extract the oil.

Personal data enables companies to monetize people’s time and attention which are both finite resources. That is why governments putting so much effort in regulating access to personal data via regulations like GDPR and CCPA. The more widely shared your personal data, the more effectively it will be monetized. The choice is yours on who you share your data with and how you spend your time.

And finally, Pi Network is not the worst app when it comes to data privacy. Apps like the Bee Network provide even more data directly to anonymous parties in China.

Now that you know what it costs to use the app, you may check what you get in return. We reviewed Pi Network in detail to estimate whether Pi Network could generate significant value for its users.

Access Cem's 2 decades of B2B tech experience as a tech consultant, enterprise leader, startup entrepreneur & industry analyst. Leverage insights informing top Fortune 500 every month.
Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst
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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.

Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.

He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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Akshay Kulkarni
Nov 06, 2021 at 13:06

Thanks Cem. Someone from my contacts contacted me regarding this Pi currency. Knowing how some users send virus to use your lappie’s processing power for mining, I was apprehensive this app does something similar. My contact called me and said all you have to do is grant your mobile power for mining. The two dots connected at an instant! Once I grant them access to my mobile, it will no longer be restricted to power consumption alone. Also, if the founders intend to be more aggressive, they may use up more of my power and data without my knowledge. Thanks to my contact, I wasted 30 minutes on a video or two and your article on Pi Network. However, thanks to you, my view point has been confirmed and I’ve received additional information, ensuring I should stay away from these things. In the end, if you have an intent to do work, you won’t fall for this. Keep writing and all the very best!

Cynthia Michele Lara
Sep 04, 2021 at 02:34

I absolutely agree! I am extremely concerned about the negative effect that this project will have on the global masses that are just beginning to adopt the use of cryptocurrencies. We are trying to get away from fraud not create new platforms for it. Great article!

Jun 10, 2021 at 10:38

I’m not quite sure what to make of your comments on app permissions. In Android, it’s up to you whether you want to grant permissions to the app or not. I’ve now checked my Pi app’s permissions and I can see that access to Contacts is specifically banned, and no other permissions have been granted. In other words, the app may have asked me for access to Contacts (I don’t remember TBH) and I refused. In spite of that, the app works just fine.

What I’m trying to say is that, yes, if you AGREE to the app having permissions then it will, and in this respect it’s no different from any other app, like Uber, or taxi apps, or booking dot com, or anything else. So your comments about user data and GDPR are 100% correct, but you could copy&paste them to the review of at least half of all apps on the market, as most of them require sensitive permissions, too. Or am I missing something?

Cem Dilmegani
Jul 17, 2021 at 07:02

Hey Chris, I generally agree. You have the decision to allow whether the app can access your data or not. The difference between Pi and for example Venmo is that when Venmo needs my contact information, it needs it so I can easily send my friends money. When Pi needs it, it is to make it easy for me to send them unsolicited messages. Respecting people’s privacy, I am for the first use case but against the second one.
In addition, Pi Network includes intrusive data collection and advertising settings which are turned on by default. Please see this article for more details:

May 24, 2021 at 20:41

Thanks for posting this, I have literally been telling everyone the same thing pretty much for over a year and a half now. If they really have 17M daily users now with ads paying max $0.02 per completed view, the revenue they are making is extremely high. Their whitepaper on the token and the way they mine it doesn’t make sense as well, as a developer I have extensive knowledge regarding POW, POS, and storage mining. It is very well an MLM. Hopium is what it’s giving people.

Cem Dilmegani
May 26, 2021 at 19:25

Thank you for the comment. Hopium can be one of the strongest forces though.

Apr 25, 2021 at 17:52

Thanks for spending the time to do the analysis. I’m getting tired of logging into Pi every 24 hours as I have become tired of watching the gold price go sideways for 10 years. At least gold has a price and I can sell it. I mention Pi and gold in the same sentence, not because there is any comparison but because neither have brought me any happiness. With gold I will be patient for a little while longer. With Pi I have had enough.

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