University of Toronto’s Study Indicates Health Care Apps Leak Your Data

A study carried out by the University of Toronto indicated that health apps share your personal information with a third party. Published on March 20, 2019 in The BMJ, , the study, “Data sharing practices of medicines related apps and the mobile ecosystem: traffic, content, and network analysis,” tested the top 24 health apps, and found that 19 among them shared user information with some of the biggest tech giants in the world.

All of the 24 medicines related apps that researchers tested during their research were Android apps. Used extensively in countries like the US, Canada, UK, and Australia, some of those apps include Medicinewise, Lexicomp, and Medscape.

According to a report, the apps tested during the research used to provide users’ data to companies like AT&T, Google, Amazon Web Services, and Facebook, etc.

The same report says that Pill Identifier and Drug List, an app that helps in figuring out “Brand and Generic drugs by the name” and provides information to users about  60,000 + drugs, shares data with the National Library of Medicine.

Researchers also claim that once your health app shares your sensitive information with an organization, they can then share it with a consumer credit reporting agency or a digital advertising agency.  

While adding information on the recipients of the user data in their report, the researchers said: “Through traffic and privacy policy analysis, we identified 55 unique entities that received or processed user data, which included app developers, their parent companies, and third parties.”

The fact that the app can share such information with a third party remains hidden in its terms and service section, which users hardly go through. And that’s the reason that they never know about it.

The research found that 79% of these apps requested access to read or write the information found in the device’s storage. Out of 24 apps, 11 (46%) requested permission for viewing wi-fi connections.

Similarly, 29% of apps requested permission to gain access to the list of accounts on the device in question. And again, 29% of apps requested permission to access information about the existing cellular network, phone number, and phone status and identity.

Sharing users’ information is not a new thing but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. A large number of tech-firms across the world are using consumers’ sensitive information for commercial purpose, even under strict privacy laws.  

This trend is dangerous for people because tech-firms use such information to sell more products to them. The worst part is that you don’t even realize that you are providing information about your personal life to these apps.

Whether you talk about the place where you perform your morning workouts, the pills you take to relieve pain and stress, or the kind of foods you consume, you end up providing information to health apps without giving a thought. It means we not only need strict laws to protect consumer data but also should use our intelligence while using health apps.

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