Fitness for Life

Privacy risks associated with Mobile Health and Fitness Apps
20.09.2016 14:27

Nowadays people are too busy in earning for a lavish life. In this fight of moving ahead they forget about their health and fitness due to lack of time. Sensing this lacuna in people companies started building apps which are health concentric and helps people to improvise and keep track of their fitness and health.Every thing which is created got some pros as well as cons, so what are the risks to consumers of using mobile health and fitness applications? Let’s have a picture of it.

Many consumers might assume that entering personal information, and especially personal health information, to gain access to the information would be very protected.  That assumption needs to be reconsidered in light of excellent reports recently issued by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC).

PRC has just finished a nine month project analyzing 43 popular mobile health, wellness and fitness apps–23 free and 20 paid.  The PRC performed a technical risk assessment to learn what data the apps were collecting, storing and transmitting over the network.
The reports provide in-depth findings on a range of issues.  I’ve selected just a few of PRC’s key consumer-oriented findings:

                      *Privacy policies are found in the app or on the developer’s website for 74% of the free apps and 60% of the paid apps; however, that means that                                26% of the free apps and 40% of the paid apps do not have a privacy policy;

                      *Only 13% of the free apps and 10% of the paid apps encrypt all connections to the developer — the rest are sending consumer data in the clear                                 without any encryption;

                      *39% of the free apps and 30% of the paid apps send data to someone not covered in their privacy policy;

                      *52% of the free apps and 30% of the paid apps notify consumers that they might share data with advertisers; and

                      *72% of the apps analyzed presented medium to high risk in terms of personal privacy; paid apps presented the lowest privacy risk to users.


Privacy risks associated with Mobile Health and Fitness Apps

1. Devices are Ideal Tracking Tools.

Now a days Smartphone has turned as a best friend for the users, wherever we go we carry them with us with data enabled on it. As we know that our devices are Internet- and geo-location-enabled and as they provide a very great benefits like internet access, finding directions, places etc we rarely care for turning them off. But at the same time, mobile devices and the apps people download can be highly privacy invasive.

2. The mobile applications ecosystem is largely unregulated.

This is a particular concern with health and fitness apps, which often collect both demographic and medical (or medical-like) information. None of this data is covered by existing regulations that protect the privacy and security of personal health information; it has only whatever protections the developer’s privacy policy affords—if there is a privacy policy at all. Also, many health and fitness apps allow and encourage users to share what you might consider sensitive information via social media.  Once information is public you have little to no control over it.

3. Health and fitness apps souls way for collecting a great deal of personal information.

There are many times where apps may prompt users to enter a name, email address, age, gender, height, weight, and photo.  They may also ask for lifestyle information. For example, the app may ask questions about food consumption and exercise habits.When you use the app, you create a record—of your diet, daily exercise, glucose readings, pregnancy, menstrual cycle. 

4. Free apps are target for advertising:

They may share personally identifiable information with advertisers, or allow ad networks to track you. Almost all applications send de-identified (non-personal) data about how you use an application to data analytics services.

Tips for consumers:
-Research the app before you download it.
-Consider using paid apps over free apps if they offer better privacy protections.
-Try to limit the personal information you provide, and exercise caution when you share it.  If the app allows it, try the features first without entering personal -information.
-If you stop using an app, delete it.  If you have the option, also delete your personal profile and any data archive you’ve created while using the app.

You may also like: Can Your Smartphone Help You To Be Fit?


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