Is Your Health App Compromising Your Data Privacy?

Is Your Health App Compromising Your Data Privacy?

Healthcare Tech Outlook | Thursday, September 05, 2019

Be careful while choosing a health app, because it can leak your personal information to the third party.

FREMONT, CA: This is a digital world, where digital tools are used in all the sectors. According to the mobile app development companies, more 2.4 billion people have smart devices across the globe. The demand for digital apps is surging in the healthcare industry day by day. Apps are indeed becoming a considerable part of the sector as they can track everything from people’s fitness routines to their menstrual cycles.

Different types of health apps are available in the market which includes: Sports and fitness activity tracking, Diet and nutrition, Weight loss coaching, Pharmacy, Sleep cycle analysis, Stress reduction & relaxation, Meditation, Medical advice and patient community, Menstrual period tracking, Pregnancy, Hospital selection, and Appointment management.

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Health apps are preferred because of the prominent pros it poses before the users, but on the other hand, the cons of these apps are:

. Data privacy: Data privacy concern is related to most of the apps. Forty-three free and paid apps were analyzed, finding that 72 percent of them expose personal information such as dates of birth, email addresses, and medical information. There are only very few apps which take permission before sharing the gathered information. It is also found that the paid apps are less risky because they do not share information for advertisements.

. Lack of regulation: Some apps can record heartbeats, pulse rates, stress level, etc. just within a click. Others claim to measure blood pressure using the camera of the phone. Most of the times, the results of the apps are different from the manual testing results. It means the information is untested and unreliable.

. Inaccurate information: A study revealed that the FDA had approved only three percent of the top 107 apps. Inaccuracy can be expected from these apps. One can’t rely totally on the medical apps for a long time.

A recent study published in BMJ found that 79 percent of health apps studied by researchers routinely shared user data, but were far from transparent about the practice. Mobile health apps are attracting both the patients and doctors because these apps offer tailored and cost-effective health promotion. On the other hand, they are posing an unprecedented risk to consumers’ as through these apps user data, including sensitive information, can be collected.

Users cannot prevent apps from collecting data all the time, because there are few legal limitations on doing so. But specific following measures can be taken to reduce the risk that your information won’t be shared in inappropriate ways:

1. Read privacy policies: Before using an app, check whether that app share data with any third party or not. If it is not mentioned in the plan, it means it a red signal to stay away from that.

2. Choose wisely: Try to choose the app which directly links you to your doctor or health insurer. These types of apps are basically safe.

3. Be aware of the free apps: Generally, the free apps are meant to collect the personal data, be mindful of such apps. It is not good to trade in terms of privacy.

4. Check privacy settings: Most of the medical apps do not need access to contacts, microphone, or location. Never allow such options in any of the apps. Reread the policies from time to time, because the companies which promise to keep privacy may change it with time.

Many applications ask permission to access device data, photos, GPS data, call information, and others. These data have nothing to do with the medical examination; this information can be leaked to the third parties. Privacy leaks were detected using a great technique called Differential Traffic Analysis. Be careful while choosing apps because most of them lacked transparency.


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