The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has published a new report concerning the privacy of individuals’ medical data on health apps. Here’s the introduction to “Mobile Health and Fitness Apps: What Are the Privacy Risks?”
Mobile applications (apps) are entering the market for smartphones and tablets at such a pace that numbers become outdated almost as soon as they are published. To put it in perspective:
- In June 2009, the Apple App Store offered 50,000 apps; by June 2013, there were 900,000 apps available, with 375,000 of them native to the iPad.
- Google Play is expected to pass the 1 million mark as of June 2013. In March 2009, as Android Market, it had 2,300 applications.
- Just over 50% of U.S. cell phone users now have smartphones, and that number is expected to rise to 79% by 2017.
- As of December 2012, about 50 million people in the U.S. owned a tablet.
Mobile is the consumer technology of the moment. The number of applications available to mobile device users appears set to continue its exponential growth. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse decided to look at the information practices of one category of mobile apps in which the sensitivity of personal information is particularly significant—those that fall under the broad heading of health and fitness. Most of the information in this fact sheet comes from that study, which was funded by a grant from the California Consumer Protection Foundation.
We analyzed 43 health and fitness apps (23 free and 20 paid) on the Apple iOS and Android platforms, and highlight the major consumer privacy risks in this guide. This guide also provides tips for users deciding whether to download an app and how best to take advantage of health and fitness apps while protecting your personal privacy.