Are Health Apps Really Sharing Your Secrets?

When it comes to sensitive subjects, such as addiction and mental health, we should be able to trust the apps which have been specifically designed to help you through these difficult periods would take your privacy seriously. But, new studies have suggested that not only is this not the case but many of these apps are sharing your data with the huge tech giants, such as Google and Facebook.

Not only are these apps failing their duty of care, but they are also not letting you know about it and they may be doing so whether or not you have used the social logins which will link your accounts with those apps.

Sharing Data With Third Parties

A recent study examined 36 of the top free apps which had a focus on depression and smoking that were available on both the iOS and Android app stores in Australia and the US. Those examined included several apps which were available on both platforms, as well as 14 which were exclusive to iOS and 15 which were only available on Android. Upon examination, researchers found that 33 out of the 36 apps – 92% – had shared data with at least one-third party.

It was also found that 29 out of the 36 apps examined were sharing information with third-party services which were operated by Facebook and Google, yet only a few were making it clear within their privacy policy that they would do so. The researchers claimed that data-sharing had “occurred regardless of whether the social login feature was used”.

However, the researchers found that, aside from sharing personal health information or substance use, the apps weren’t sharing personal or sensitive data, such as passwords, dates of birth or full names. But, this study still raises huge questions about the security which we share with apps that are meant to help us lead healthier lifestyles.

How Can You Protect Your Information?

If you use Google to search for a query, then it feels as though it is almost inevitable that you will be shown some kind of advert hoping to sell you a product which relates to your search term. From high strength fish oil capsules to life insurance, sooner or later an app will pop up and many smartphone users don’t quite realise that many apps use the same techniques.

Now that many tech companies have caught on, it can be difficult to protect yourself from data sharing without having to forgo using apps completely. If you deny the right for apps to share and access your information with or from third parties, then it is likely that you will be denied accessing the app altogether.

Should You Get Used To It, Or Miss Out?

With many scandals coming out regarding apps and data sharing, should you surrender your information or risk missing out on using health apps which claim to help you? Thankfully, many governing bodies don’t believe that you should and the UK government, in particular, has issued a damning report on the ways which Facebook uses personal data.

The report argued that, for someone who is head of one of the world’s most popular and influential websites and apps, Mark Zuckerberg is turning a blind eye to these crucial issues. They concluded that, if serious action wasn’t taken, then Facebook is no longer fit enough to be governed by itself and a specialist regulatory body would have to step in.

Although this isn’t great news for the UK and those whose data has been shared, the same cannot be said for the rest of the world. With strong guidelines being put in place against one of the biggest companies in the world, it is likely that other governments are soon to follow suit in the war on data protection.

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