Health apps are an increasingly popular way to track personal information for health and fitness, but new research suggests using them may be they may pose some serious privacy concerns.
A study found that many health apps transmit sensitive medical information, such as disease status and medication compliance, to third parties, including advertising networks.
Researchers from the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law identified all available Android apps and collected and analysed their privacy policies and permissions. (Apps for Apple devices were not included in the study).
The study found that:
- Of the 20% that did have privacy policies, not all of the provisions actually protected privacy, (almost 50% shared data)
- Only 4 privacy policies said they would ask users for permission to share data.
The study also conducted another an analysis of 65 diabetes-specific apps, which found that sensitive information, including insulin and blood glucose levels, were routinely collected and shared with third parties.
This study also means that medical professionals should consider privacy implications prior to encouraging patients to use health apps.