One of Britain’s leading alcohol charities has been criticized for relaunching its popular lifestyle app, which wiped out the drinking history of its users along with red flag warnings about harmful consumption.
Industry-funded, Drinkaware promotes its alcohol consumption app to help curb excessive drinking and monitor consumption. The app, which was launched in 2014, has had more than 600,000 downloads.
But since the relaunch on August 30, some users have complained that more than four years of drinking consumption logged on the app has disappeared, along with the estimated financial costs of large drinking sessions. The app has since had more than 100 one-star reviews, the lowest possible rating, in Apple’s app store.
David Eckhoff, 59, a public relations chief and author of the novel The royal factor, said: “[The app’s] totally useless and I have given up recording my alcohol consumption on it. I lost all my data. If they take it seriously to help people with alcohol consumption, it is a complete neglect. ”
The charity said it had received more than 540 complaints from users since the relaunch. It admitted that “sensitive” data disappeared, but said they were not permanently deleted and that they had been working to recover the information.
The developers have told hostile reviewers in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store that the deleted data will be “migrated” back to apps. “We apologize for the delay,” said a Drinkaware response posted on October 22. “There was a large amount of very sensitive information that we took a long time to protect.”
“Absolute mess,” said one user. “Like many other reviews, I have lost all my previous data.” Another wrote: “Why did you update the app without warning and lose all my data? Some of us really trust this data as a means of keeping track and empowering ourselves not to drink.” Another said, “Where is the motivation to track week after week, month after month, year after year, when you only show a two-week comparison?”
Others said they dropped the app because it no longer provided a monthly comparison of alcohol intake or had warnings of past excessive consumption of more than 50 units a week, equivalent to about five bottles of wine. The charity said the cost of drinking was eliminated because it was not a popular feature among users.
The government guidelines for alcohol consumption for men and women recommend that it is safest not to drink more than 14 units per week on a regular basis, equivalent to seven medium-sized glasses of wine. Nearly one in four British drinkers regularly exceeds these guidelines.
Drinkaware was created as a website in 2004 by the Portman Group, an organization for the beverage industry. It became a separate charity in January 2007 and is funded by voluntary donations from the beverage industry.
Last year, Drinkaware received £ 5.5 million in voluntary donations from alcohol producers, retailers and sports organizations. Its public goal is to reduce alcohol abuse and harm.
The charity faced controversy in 2018 when Sir Ian Gilmore, one of the country’s most respected experts on the effects of alcohol, resigned from an advisory role at Public Health England in protest of a partnership with Drinkaware over its links to the alcohol industry.
The charity said it had recovered data to those who had requested it and anyone with missing data should contact them. It also said its funders were not involved in the changes to the app and were never asked to approve any aspect of the charity’s work.
Drinkaware added that the app needed updating, but it looked at further improvements, including bringing back a total of 28-day drinks. “We know that some loyal and committed users of the old app have not appreciated the changes we have made. We are listening to their concerns,” the charity said in a statement.