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Data Sharing by Popular Health Apps is "Routine," Research Finds

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The researchers found a small number of commercial entities have the ability to aggregate and potentially re-identify such user data.

Researchers have found the sharing of user data by health-related apps is routine, but far from transparent.


Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia, the University of Toronto in Canada, and the University of California have found that mobile health apps pose unprecedented risk to consumers' privacy because of their ability to collect and share user data, including sensitive information valuable to commercial interests.

The team discovered sharing of user data by mobile health apps is routine but quite opaque, identifying a small number of commercial entities with the ability to aggregate and potentially re-identify user data.

The researchers identified the 24 top rated mobile health apps for Android in the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Australia, and ran laboratory-based traffic analysis of each app downloaded onto a smartphone, simulating real-world use with four fake prescriptions.

Of the sampled apps, 79% shared user data outside of the app. In addition, a total of 55 unique entities, owned by 46 parent companies, received or processed the data.

From University of Sydney
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Abstracts Copyright © 2019 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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