Health apps pose privacy risks

Mobile health apps may be a great way to keep track of prescriptions and when to take your pills, but researchers have raised a red flag about privacy impacts.

They say apps can collect user data, including sensitive information that is highly valuable to commercial interests.

The University of Sydney-led research team found sharing of user data by medicines-related apps is routine but far from transparent, and also identified a small number of commercial entities with the ability to exploit user data.

They concluded that privacy regulators should consider that loss of privacy was not a fair cost for the use of digital health services and that greater regulation and transparency about the apps was needed.

All the researched apps were available to the public and provided information about medicines dispensing, administration, prescribing, or use, and were interactive.

However, privacy leaks were detected as the apps shared user data outside of the app to third parties. Only three of the four parties could be characterised as predominantly belonging to the health sector.

Even more disturbingly, the health information could be attractive to cybercriminals and commercial interests.

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