Frequently asked questions
What does Caribou Data do?
Caribou Data does market research to understand how people use mobile phones and digital products in their day-to-day lives. We conduct different kinds of primary research, including behavioral studies that rely on panels of internet users who are compensated for sharing data with us anonymously.
How do your research panels work?
We recruit large groups of internet users who are representative of a specific population, and compensate them to share their data with us anonymously. Our panels typically last between 3-12 months, and we provide our panelists with airtime every month as a reward for participating. Read more about the airtime rewards.
Does this app use mobile data?
Yes, the app is designed to automatically upload data in the background but should use no more than 1MB per month.
You can contact someone on our staff with any questions via WhatsApp, +44 7366 855 096. Please note, we are unable to answer WhatsApp calls and can only reply to messages.
Please ensure you include your device_id (found in the FAQ section of the app) when contacting us—this will allow us to help you with any issues you may have.
What does this app do?
The app collects data on how your phone is being used. It runs in the background of the device (even when it is not visible on the screen) so that we can measure activity throughout the day. We work extremely hard to minimise the impact to battery life, typically 2% or less of a single charge.
An example of what we record:
“On 21 July 2016, at 13:29, the device eab52f6e9bb7 switched from 3G connectivity to a Wi-Fi network”
Note that eab52f6e9bb7 represent a “hash,” which is an anonymous code for your device without connecting it in any personal way to you. We believe that this information is truly anonymous and there is no practical way for this information to be associated with any specific individual. Despite that, we treat this data as if it is personal data and afford it the protections required of identifiable personal data under applicable law.
By looking at millions of these events over time, we aim to understand the digital lives of thousands of people. Using the example above, we might be able to make a statement like “within our data sample, most people have access to 3G at least once per day” or “people within our data sample watch more videos when on Wi-Fi than 3G.”
What data will be shared from my device?
Broadly speaking, we aim to gather data in these areas:
Hardware — For example, the make and model of the device, the version of the operating system, the battery level, and the available storage space on the device.
Device state — For example, turning a device on or off, waking it from sleep, and how much time was spent with the screen turned on or off
Connectivity — For example, joining or leaving a mobile network, turning on or off airplane mode, making a phone call, sending an SMS, the status of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Applications — For example, how often an app is used and at which times of day it is used
All measurements are taken together with the time stamp (a digital record of the time of occurrence of a particular event) at which they occur.
Note that the possible measurements we can make through the app will vary by capability of the device, including hardware type, the version of the operating software running and the types of possible connectivity (2G, 3G, Wi-Fi, etc), so your specific data will of course vary based on the capabilities of your device(s).
Importantly, we will never record or store your personal content. For example, we do not collect the audio recording of a phone call, or the text within an SMS. Rather, we are interested only in recording the metadata (a set of data that describes and gives information about other data), and so we would measure the time of day, hashed destination and duration of the call or the time stamp and hashed destination of a message.
Transactions — For example, frequency and average value of airtime top-ups or payments sent using mobile money; importantly, we do not record or store any personal information of any individuals you may transact with
What do you do with my data?
Your data is combined with many other people’s data, and then analyzed for patterns or trends that help us better understand how people use their mobile phones and the internet.
For an example, here is a chart that we produce showing the amount of time that urban and rural individuals spend on different network types.
How is data anonymised?
We work hard to ensure that all data measurements are anonymised and secured prior to leaving your device. Firstly, any personal information is “hashed” when recorded. This includes any phone numbers, network names, cell towers identifiers and device serial numbers connected to you or your contacts that could be linked to an individual device or person.
A “hash” is an encrypted way of identifying a sequence of written characters, without knowing what those original characters are. For example, it enables us to say “the phone number fbb72f9e2cc5 was called 4 times this month by device eab52f6e9bb7” without ever knowing what the actual phone number is or what the serial number of the device is, because the hash of a given sequence of characters (like a phone number) is always the same.
Secondly, location data is randomly altered to within a 1 km radius of your actual location. Location data is altered to up to 10 km if the surrounding location is particularly sparse, like rural areas.
Thirdly, measurements are batched up, compressed, and encrypted on the device before being securely transmitted over an encrypted link to our servers. Once successfully transferred and verified, data is deleted from your device to make more space available. Such files are very small, and typically use no more space on your device than a single photo.
Finally, we ensure that no single device submits a volume of data that is statistically identifiable when compared with other devices in the same set. If a device approaches this threshold, data is selectively discarded until it once again satisfies our anonymisation criteria.
When we anonymise data on the device itself we ensure that we never even see personal data before it has been “hashed.” From this we can only infer connections between different hashes, and never individual devices or people. We have designed the process of anonymising the data to make it mathematically impossible to look at the data and make a specific statement like “this hash represents the phone number 0000-000-000 that is used by Anne in Nairobi” or other similar statements.
What is meant by “personally identifying information”?
When we use this phrase we are referring to data that could be used to identify a single device or that could identify an individual person from the entire data set. This could be the case with a single value (if, for example, we collected individual phone numbers—and that is why we don’t collect them), but it can also be the case when establishing a relationship between a number of different factors, such as age, gender and location that can narrow down an otherwise anonymous measurement into one that is only exhibited by you or your device. We use this technique to mathematically ensure this never happens.
By “identifying a single device” we don’t mean its hashed identifier, which is of course itself unique, but rather information that could be used to identify the physical hardware, such as a phone, SIM or serial number.
When will I get my airtime rewards?
When you successfully enter your personal code into the app, you will join that panel, and you will receive a notification to redeem your first airtime reward 48 hours later. Subsequent rewards are issued on a monthly basis - i.e. one month after the first reward
How will I get my airtime if you don’t ask for my phone number?
We don’t collect your phone number at the point of registration but when you become eligible for an airtime reward, we will send you a notification to claim your reward. When you tap that link, you will see a form to enter a phone number where you want the airtime sent (it does not have to be your number). Because we do not want to record your phone number or any other personal information about you, we ask you to enter a phone number every time you have a reward to redeem.
Please be very careful to enter the correct number in the form - once it has been submitted, we are unable to recall airtime rewards or send duplicate rewards when it has been sent to an incorrect number.
What if I change my device or reformat it? Will I lose my Caribou Data membership and airtime rewards?
If you are planning to change your device or re-format it we will be able to restore your membership. However, in order to do this we will need to know the device id that is contained in the FAQ section of the app - similar to the screenshot below. Please make sure you note down the code in your app before changing device or re-formatting it.
Can I refer other people to Caribou Data?
We do not have a referral system in place at the current time as the recruitment is completed by questionnaire and limited to specific groups. Any codes given can only be used by the recipient and cannot be shared—a code shared with some-one else will not work and may result in participation being ended.
Why is only one airtime reward showing when I believe there should be more than that?
The airtime rewards are issued one at a time. In the rewards tab of the Caribou Data app, you will be able to see if a reward is available. If a second reward is also due to be claimed, please claim the first one and another “claim reward” button will shortly be visible.
Please note - we do recommend that rewards are claimed as soon as possible to ensure they are correctly sent and received.
How do I become a member of Caribou Data?
Membership of Caribou Data is currently by invitation only. Registration questionnaires are sent to participants that may be eligible to join a panel by our recruitment partners. If you have not been sent a questionnaire then you will be unable to join.
To participate in the study, you first answer the questions on the registration form. When you submit the registration form, you will receive a personal code that looks something like this: #87CEFA.
It is very important that you write down and keep the code you receive as it is the only way we have of finding your account. If you have any issues with your membership, you will need to send this code to us in order for us to be able to help.
When you open the app for the first time, it will ask you to enter your personal code. Once you enter the code, you will be successfully enrolled in that panel. Note that your personal code is unique to you and cannot be shared - if other people attempt to use the same code, it will result in membership being ended.
I filled out the form, and it says “the study is full,” what does this mean?
First of all, thank you for your interest—we know that this can be frustrating! All of our panels have a maximum number of people who can sign up, depending on our clients and current research needs. Because our panels often fill up very quickly, sometimes individuals who try to sign up will get a message that “the study is full,” which means the maximum has been reached. We do our best to ensure that any available slots are opened as quickly as possible.
If I download the app, can you send me a code?
No - unfortunately not. The studies are being completed based on specific demographics or groups of people so the only way to get a code is if you have been sent a questionnaire and are eligible to participate in a study.
Can I join more than one panel?
No - each person is only allowed to join one study. Attempting to join multiple studies (or the same study more than once) will result in membership being ended.