Be Careful of Sharing Health Information on Smartphone Apps

​​Smartphone-300x200.jpgNew technology is a boon for many people taking care of elderly relatives or friends. With a few keystrokes, an abundance of information is available at the fingertips. But in some instances, such as the use of smartphone apps for health issues, it pays to do a little investigating before freely making use of the tools.

Why Caution?

Apps, the “applications” that can be downloaded to a smartphone, are a familiar feature of modern life. Many people use special apps that are designed to help manage or provide information for medical and health issues. Often these apps require a person to enter personal information, including facts about specific readings for various health measurements (such as blood glucose or blood pressure levels) or reminders about upcoming tests.  This can be beneficial in helping a person keep track of things.

But if that information is being shared with third parties - someone other than the user and the app provider – that can be invasive and could lead to undesirable outcomes for many people. Those taking care of elderly individuals may be among those who feel that the information they submit should be kept private and personal.


Does third party sharing happen often? Yes, according to a recent study in the medical journal JAMA. Entitled “Privacy Policies of Android Diabetes Apps and Sharing of Health Information​,” the study found that many of the apps they looked at did NOT have privacy policies in place – and that many that did are still sharing personal information with third parties.

The study looked only at apps that were designed for people with diabetes. Of the 211 apps they investigated, 81% did not have a privacy policy – meaning that users have no idea whether or not their data is being shared without their knowledge. Of the apps that DID have privacy policies, 19 of them were found to share that data – however, only 11 of the 19 apps let the users know that they were sharing that data. The remaining 8 did NOT let users know that personal data could be shared with outside sources.

Seniors or those taking care of elderly individuals should do a little investigating of their own before using apps that require health information that should be kept private. It’s a good idea to see if there is a privacy policy available from the app. It’s also a good idea to see if there is a separate “permissions” section as well. If there is nothing about sharing information, try to contact the app makers before downloading. Users can also look at user reviews to see if anyone has complained about sharing of information.​

Related Article
​Apps for Aging Parents​ -​


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