Mental health applications might be selling data to Google and Facebook

A research found that Mental health applications might be selling sensitive data to Google and Facebook


Technology these days surely helps in performing some of the everyday chores. Our dependence on apps and electronic gadgets can help to perform a few chores in a more efficient manner. It does makes sense as it saves time and emits the need to depend on an expert who has knowledge. It also makes sense to use them to assist when dealing with depression and other health related issues. But a new study has found that such applications cannot be trusted fully. This is due to their shady privacy policies and incomplete disclosures.

A study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open, in which the researchers found that out of 36 top applications for treating depression and smoking addiction, 29 were transmitting user data to advertise companies like Google and Facebook. Out of the 29 only 12 disclosed this data sharing agreement in their privacy policy. 9 of the applications were also found to be sending a strong identifier to the advertisers that could be used by the advertising companies to track user behavior. It creates an advertising profile and shows them targeted ads.

At the same time the researchers were not able to find how exactly Google and Facebook were using this user data. It was also found that two of the applications even shared sensitive health status data like health diary entries or substance use with third-party analytics services. The applications were categorized by the researchers by searching for depression and smoking cessation-related keywords in the iOS and Android apps stores in Australia and the United States. The study took place between April 2018 and June 2018.

It was concluded by the researchers that the mismatched privacy policies and actual data sharing activity raise a serious concern. It was also the responsibility of the healthcare community and technology companies to come up with strict privacy guidelines to protect personal health data.

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