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Medical Apps: Is Your Information Safe?  

Posted on 28 September 2015 by KWBG

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — How safe is your health information when you use “health apps?”

European researchers recently did a study published in BMC Medicine that looked at 79 different Android and iOS “health apps” that the National Health Service of the U.K. deemed clinically safe and trustworthy.

These apps, from weight loss apps to medication management to alcohol harm reduction, are supposed to be in compliance with the U.K.’s Data Protection Act,  but during the 6 month study, researchers were able to pick up information from the data transmission using a form of data “eavesdropping” known as “man-in-the-middle,” essentially intercepting personal information that was transmitted by the app.

Almost a third of the apps sent identifying information to servers without any encryption.  No app deliberately sent “strong identifiers” or sensitive information to advertisers, marketing companies or other content providers; but 12 percent of apps use a fixed identifier, meaning the information could always be traced back to the user’s phone, even if they didn’t send information about the user themselves. While 67 percent of the apps tested had some sort of privacy policy, the remaining third had no privacy disclosure.

As more and more people use phone apps to monitor their health, users may find it hard to find apps that protect their information.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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