YNAB and data privacy

Can I Trust YNAB?

Why We Don't (and Won't) Sell Your Data


The topic of YNAB privacy originally appeared on my weekly podcast. Data privacy is such an important topic that we decided to post it here for more people to read.

We’re going to take a quick detour away from money management to talk about something equally important todayprivacy. 

It’s not that far off of our normal path, is it? After all, our finances reveal a lot about our private lives and knowing we are in control of our budget can bring great peace of mind. The same philosophy applies to our personal information. 

As we’ve all become more acclimated to living, working, and playing in a digitally-driven landscape, it’s become obvious that the services we use and information that we consume on the internet often come at a costand that cost is our dataso I want to bring total transparency to this very hot topic. Pay close attention, this next part is important: 

We only want to make money from you paying us money, with you fully knowing and understanding what’s going on. 

You pay us the 84 bucks a year (or the 12 bucks a month), and there you have it. That’s it. Transaction complete. That’s how we make our money. 

I will say that we also make money from the YNAB book, but to be fully honest, our publisher is actually the one who makes that money and they just occasionallyvery occasionally…every few years, it feels likesend us a check. 

The Lowdown on Data 

So, what’s up with your data? It’s yours. That’s how we view it. Now, it is true that we do use certain types of data to improve the app, and we disclose that in the privacy policy and the security policy

However, I want to break it down in non-legal terms because I suspect some of you might fail a pop quiz about the contents of the privacy policy, and that’s okay. Here’s the cheat sheet: We don’t use your financial data at all. We don’t use it anonymized. We don’t use it aggregated. We don’t use it AT ALL. Because it’s yours. 

I don’t like how big companies justify using customer data due to it being anonymized because that seemingly impersonal data can still be used to manipulate that dataset—and by dataset, I mean people—in ways that aren’t beneficial to the dataset (again, people. You.) I don’t agree with using your information to discover ways to influence your behavior as a customer. 

We don’t look at your financial data at all. We have very strict security and data privacy policies here at YNAB on when, how, and why we’re allowed to view that information. For instance, if you’ve ever written into support and said, “Oh my gosh, help me reconcile this 16 cents,” a support rep will reply and request explicit permission to do so and then access is automatically revoked. We have tight controls around that, and for good reason. 

Data Do’s 

So, again, we do not use your financial data in any form; not anonymized, not aggregated, not at all. If we ever gather any kind of data from you, we will do it through a survey, where you are typing in your data knowing that YNAB is going to use it. 

We do use anonymized usage data. For instance, we might know that you’ve set up a goal but we won’t know how much is in your checking account. We just want to know if the Goals feature is being used and what types, like Target-Saving, Balance, or Monthly Savings Builders. Is it being used? How often are people connecting to a bank account? How successful is that endeavor, in the first go? Usage data is important to us so that we can continually improve the product for you. 

But your financial data? No, no, no, no, NO, NO, NOT EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, no matter what. 

We don’t use your financial data at all. Because it’s yours.

Data Don’ts

It doesn’t happen a lot, but we have had inquiries from data shops that sell aggregate amounts of data to investors, like money managers, hedge funds, and things like that. Their goal is to dump this aggregate data into their algorithms to see if they can figure out how to make a little more money. We do not do that. At all. That’s privacy and data. 

We make money from you paying us for the product that you are using, and that’s all. We don’t make money off of your private life. And I’m comfortable with our stance. I like that about us. I like that it’s your data. 

I’m tired of companies wanting to know every single thinglike, when I go to get the oil changed in my car and they want my phone number, it’s like, no! Just change the oil! Maybe this proves that I’m a curmudgeon, but this curmudgeon really wants to keep your data safe and private, secure, and yours. We don’t want to make money off of it. Ever. Never ever, no matter what. 

This was much easier to understand than a privacy policy, right? 

Now that we’ve got that settled, are you ready to get back to talking about money? Check out episodes of the podcast for insight and advice on protecting your finances like we protect your information.