Nine in 10 Health Apps Collect User Data, Global Study Finds | Mobile phones
Nine out of 10 mobile health apps collect and track user data, according to a new global study.
Research published in the British medical journal conducted an in-depth analysis of over 20,000 mobile health apps on the Google Play Store, some of which require users to disclose sensitive health information, including step and calorie counters, apps that manage health conditions , symptom checkers and menstruation trackers.
Muhammad Ikram, lecturer at Macquarie University Cyber Security Hub, said the vast majority (88%) use “tracking IDs and cookies to track user activity on mobile devices, and some of these apps use in follows up on different platforms ”.
Additionally, 28% of health apps did not provide any sort of privacy statement on Google Play regarding what was being collected, which is against the store’s terms of service.
Research found that about two-thirds could collect advertising IDs or cookies, one-third could collect a user’s email address, and about one-quarter could identify the mobile tower to which the device was sent. ‘a user was logged in, potentially providing information about the user’s location.
But only 4% of mobile health apps actually transmitted data to a third party – usually a user’s name and location information.
Ikram said, “Some of this information collected is used for tracking and profiling purposes, which is done by third parties like advertisers and tracking companies and which is essentially a form of data mining and this happens. done without the user’s consent and it is done explicitly and implicitly.
A Google spokesperson said in response that developers should seek permission from users for the use of their data. “Our Google Play Developer Guidelines are designed to protect users and keep them safe. When violations are found, we take action. We review the report.
The report also praised the European General Data Protection Regulation, “which has improved transparency around application data collection and sharing practices and requires specific measures to ensure active consent to data sharing”.
By comparison, Ikram said Australia does not have clear privacy policies for mobile health apps. “There is no privacy regulation as such that we have in Australia that can be used, but I think some of these GDPR policies can potentially be used in Australia to protect the privacy of Australian users.” , did he declare.
Despite these statistics, the researchers also found that only 1.3% (3,609) of user reviews raised concerns about privacy.