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Your Mental Health App Might Be Selling Your Data To Google Or Facebook

With our increasing dependence on smartphones and other electronic gadgets to help us perform our daily chores in a more efficient manner, it makes sense to use them to assist us when dealing with depression and other mental health-related issues. However, a new study has found that such apps can’t be fully trusted — thanks to their shady privacy policies and incomplete disclosers.

In a study published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the researchers found that out of 36 top apps for treating depression and smoking addiction, 29 were transmitting user data to advertising companies like Google and Facebook. Out of those 29, only 12 disclosed this data sharing agreement in their privacy policy.

9 apps were also found to be sending a strong identifier to advertisers that could be used by advertising companies to track user behavior, create an advertising profile, and show them targeted ads. However, researchers were unable to find how exactly Google and Facebook were using this user data.


2 apps even shared sensitive health status data like health diary entries or substance use with third-party analytics services.

The researchers categorized the apps by searching for depression and smoking cessation-related keywords in the iOS and Android app stores in Australia and the United States; this study took place between April 2018 and June 2018.

The research concludes that mismatched privacy policies and actual data sharing activity raise a serious concern. It’s the responsibility of the health care community and technology companies to come up with stringent privacy guidelines to protect personal health data. It also highlights the underlying issue with the business model of freemium apps that sell your data in case you don’t wish to pay for the app.

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