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Privacy, Data Sharing, and Data Security Policies of Women's mHealth Apps: Scoping Review and Content Analysis - medtigo

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Privacy, Data Sharing, and Data Security Policies of Women’s mHealth Apps: Scoping Review and Content Analysis

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JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2022 May 6;10(5):e33735. doi: 10.2196/33735.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Women’s mobile health (mHealth) is a growing phenomenon in the mobile app global market. An increasing number of women worldwide use apps geared to female audiences (female technology). Given the often private and sensitive nature of the data collected by such apps, an ethical assessment from the perspective of data privacy, sharing, and security policies is warranted.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this scoping review and content analysis was to assess the privacy policies, data sharing, and security policies of women’s mHealth apps on the current international market (the App Store on the Apple operating system [iOS] and Google Play on the Android system).

METHODS: We reviewed the 23 most popular women’s mHealth apps on the market by focusing on publicly available apps on the App Store and Google Play. The 23 downloaded apps were assessed manually by 2 independent reviewers against a variety of user data privacy, data sharing, and security assessment criteria.

RESULTS: All 23 apps collected personal health-related data. All apps allowed behavioral tracking, and 61% (14/23) of the apps allowed location tracking. Of the 23 apps, only 16 (70%) displayed a privacy policy, 12 (52%) requested consent from users, and 1 (4%) had a pseudoconsent. In addition, 13% (3/23) of the apps collected data before obtaining consent. Most apps (20/23, 87%) shared user data with third parties, and data sharing information could not be obtained for the 13% (3/23) remaining apps. Of the 23 apps, only 13 (57%) provided users with information on data security.

CONCLUSIONS: Many of the most popular women’s mHealth apps on the market have poor data privacy, sharing, and security standards. Although regulations exist, such as the European Union General Data Protection Regulation, current practices do not follow them. The failure of the assessed women’s mHealth apps to meet basic data privacy, sharing, and security standards is not ethically or legally acceptable.

PMID:35522465 | DOI:10.2196/33735

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