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Several Health Apps Share Sensitive Medical Data With Other Firms: Study

Health apps cause “exceptional” privacy risks, with regard to medical conditions and linked information, as per new Canadian research issued in the BMJ. The research, named “Commercial health apps: in the user’s interest?”, examined 24 well-known health applications. Of the 24, it was discovered that 19 of them transmitted user information with other firms. These third parties comprised Google, Amazon, and Facebook. Also, it mentions that these giant tech players can trade the data easily to other firms, without the customers of the app being conscious that this has taken place.

The security issue brings up new concerns regarding who owns confidential information—the firm that possesses the application or the app user? Queries of data rights and what ensues to the data are vital, provided the ever-rising recognition of health applications. The new study examined the apps meant for the Android mobile platform and that are accessible commercially in the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada.

The research, directed by Quinn Grundy from the University of Toronto throws out an additional worry provided that health information was shared in spite of remarks from the makers that they do not gather personally identifiable data. Nevertheless, the medical researchers demonstrated that information can be tracked back and thus, users can be recognized easily by piecing together information tracks or metadata (information about data), such as the unique address of the Android phone of the user.

Likewise, as per The Wall Street Journal report, developers of app such as Flo Health, the ovulation tracker, and Azumio Inc., the creator of a famous third-party heart rate tracker for iOS, make use of a Facebook-offered tool, called “App Events,” which shares private, user-provided information with the social network directly that, in most scenarios, a user must submit manually. That information is then utilized to notify the ad-targeting tools of Facebook.