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Is the Wally App Safe to Use?

Woman uncomfortable by what she's reading on her phone.

Image source: Getty Images

When it comes to managing money, budgeting apps are powerful tools. They can help us to keep track of our goals, understand where our money goes, and make informed decisions about spending. The Wally App goes even further. Dubbing itself the “world’s first GPT-powered personal finance app,” it uses artificial intelligence to give context to our finances.

But before you connect your bank accounts to any app, AI or otherwise, it’s important to know how that app will store and protect your data.

Is the Wally App safe?

The Wally website says it takes security very seriously. According to its privacy policy, it only collects information to improve the product and it won’t sell user information to any third parties. All the same, it’s understandable if you’re hesitating to share your banking data with an app that’s powered by artificial intelligence.

After all, the headlines have been full of scary AI stories, particularly in terms of privacy. There are concerns that AI apps can swallow and use huge swathes of data, but won’t necessarily respect confidentiality. To that point, Wally stresses the app won’t keep any data you provide. “Wally uses your data to provide you with relevant responses and within 30 days, it’s completely deleted,” says the site. It also says the info won’t be shared with employees, advertisers, financial institutions, or other organizations.

That doesn’t mean that Wally won’t use the information you give it. It says it uses anonymized data to generate user insights and also for research purposes. Anonymizing data means removing details that could identify you personally. For example, it says it might be able to tell you that you spend more on dining out than people who are similar to you. It might also use the information to uncover wider insights such as people’s water bills in a particular state.

There are also stories about AI hallucinations — essentially generating false information — which could be concerning when it comes to helping you manage your money. I asked how I might invest $1,000 and the answers it gave, such as buying stocks or bonds, were pretty sound. But it is very early days for this technology. I’m not sure I would 100% trust any advice an AI bot gave me, though it can be useful alongside human intelligence.

How safe are budgeting apps?

Whether it is Wally or another financial app, here are some of the security features to check for — and how Wally stacks up.

Security measure What it means Wally’s policy
App is read only The app can see your accounts but it can’t do anything with the info. It can’t move your money around. According to its site, “Wally cannot make transfers, payments or charge your card.”
End-to-end encryption System to protect data while it’s being sent so that only the end user can view it. According to its site, “Syncing your accounts to Wally is encrypted end-to-end, PCI compliant, ISO 27001 certified and GDPR compliant.”
Transparent about data handling Read through the app’s privacy policy to see how it stores and handles your info. Wally’s privacy policy is clear about what it collects and why. However, Competitors like Mint and PocketGuard are more detailed.
User-level security 2FA or a passcode will make it harder for someone to access the data on the app. I installed WallyGPT and it doesn’t offer extra security such as a password or 2FA.
Third-party security audits If an independent outsider gives the security system its stamp of approval, that’s a big plus. The ISO 27001 certification is an independent security certificate.
Data source: WallyGPT site and author research.

WallyGPT: Bottom line

All in all, WallyGPT checks a lot of boxes security wise. Nonetheless, it would be safer if it had user-level security measures in place. I’d also like the app to show me its privacy policy before I enter my email address or connect my bank account. In fairness, it is available on the website, and you can read it on the app once you’ve gotten through the set-up pages. But by that point, you may already have shared a lot of your information. There’s also no active opt-in checkbox: The policy says by using the app, you’re automatically consenting to its privacy policy. It isn’t a deal breaker, but a more active and accessible agreement would help to build trust.

There’s a lot we don’t know about how artificial intelligence will change our lives, and there’s no harm in being cautious about what data you want to share. Before you install the WallyGPT app, take the time to read its privacy policy. It is important you understand and are comfortable with what the app might do with your information.

On a broader note, good personal security practices matter with any budgeting app. Use different passwords for each app/site, and keep your antivirus protection updated. Be careful about clicking on links in any messages, especially if you don’t recognize the sender. Installing the most secure budgeting app in the world won’t make much difference if your password is 12345Password and your cellphone is riddled with malware.

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