Mobile health apps have “serious privacy concerns” – study
Thousands of mobile health apps have “serious privacy concerns,” a study suggests.
Researchers at Macquarie University in Australia looked at more than 15,000 medical, health and fitness apps on the Google Play Store and compared their privacy practices with a random sample of over 8,000 non-apps. health-related.
The study, which was published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found that while healthcare apps tended to collect less user data than other apps, 88% could access and potentially share personal data, such as as a user’s email address and geolocation information. .
He also pointed out that even though only 4% of the health apps tested actually transmitted data, this was still a substantial figure and should be a cause for concern.
The researchers said this was because more than 87% of the data collection and 56% of the data transmission was on behalf of third-party services such as advertisers and tracking providers.
Online trackers can be used to track someone across the internet by collecting data about a user’s habits, which can then be used to build a profile and help serve them with advertising.
Additionally, the study raised concerns about data security, with its findings suggesting that 23% of user data transmissions took place over unsecured communication channels.
The most common third parties responsible for collecting data within apps have turned out to be tech companies, including Google and Facebook.
“This analysis revealed serious privacy concerns and inconsistent privacy practices in mHealth applications,” the researchers said of their findings.
“Clinicians need to be aware of this and explain it to patients when determining the benefits and risks of mobile health (mHealth) applications. “
The study calls on consumers to take advantage of privacy settings that can help users better protect their privacy, but urged the industry to do more.
“We also need to advocate for increased scrutiny, regulation and accountability from key players behind the scenes – app stores, digital advertisers and data brokers – to determine whether these data must exist and how it is to be used, and to ensure accountability for any damage that occurs, ”the study said.