The Danger of Mobile Health Apps

The Danger of Mobile Health Apps

( – Smartphone apps can do almost anything these days, such as contract others to do our grocery shopping, or even track blood pressure. But, as mobile health applications gain popularity, experts warn of hidden dangers.

The Popularity of Health Applications

Between wearable technology, like the FitBit, and step-counting phones, so many different aspects of health and wellness are tracked with technology. The developers of the mHealth app took advantage of this surge in new data and made a substantial profit. Its market share grew from $2.27 billion in 2017 to $3.35 billion in 2018 and has only increased since.

The vast majority of these apps focus on wellness management. But, about a quarter focus on disease and treatment management, according to a study by Fortune Business Insights. The prevalence of chronic diseases and disorders in the US continues to drive the demand for more mobile health tracking applications, like this one:

This is where the dangers lie and where consumers are taken advantage of. Once given, the data collected by these apps is stored permanently, creating a digital footprint of the user. Mobile apps then monetize this information through ad sales.

Mobile Health Apps Share Data

In a preliminary study, The American Heart Association (AHA) looked at 35 diabetes apps and determined each one gave data to third parties, including those whose privacy policy said the information would not be given or sold.

Information collected by health apps is not guarded by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. That law only safeguards information given to nurses, doctors, and other health professionals. So, any data, including weight, age, blood pressure, and more, can all be shared and sold by apps.

Dr. David Grande, the Director of Policy at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, studies how health care privacy and digital health information interact more than we think:

He says that even choices, such as what you purchased at the grocery store or the show you watched last night, influence your health data footprint. Any app that collects this info takes advantage of this data and shares it with others.

Protecting Ourselves Means Protecting Our Data

The mobile health app market exploded over the past few years, but it was too fast for regulation or privacy laws to keep up. As in all aspects of the internet and technology, your personal data can include sensitive information. So, we must be vigilant about what we share on our phones, as we never truly know where it will end up.

~Here’s to Your Prosperity!

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