Insurance companies can track your smart phone apps
According to “Financial Times,” the next time you use a smartphone to access information about weight loss options or to determine how many calories are in a menu item, you take the chance that the information will be sent to insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
The report cites a report from “Evidon,” a web analytics and privacy firm, which found 20 of the most popular wellness apps that Americans use, including MapMyFitness, WebMD Health and iPeriod, are transmitting information to nearly 70 third-party companies.
Financial Times also stated that third parties, which primarily include advertising and analytics firms, use the information collected from app users who are tracking weight loss, diets, and workouts to build profiles or display personalized ads.
“You are talking about some of the most sensitive details of your life being widely available to others,” Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a consumer privacy group, told Financial Times. “That information is being sucked up and collected surreptitiously by a host of online companies that are sharing, selling and trading that information.”
The report said the owners of several health-related apps, including WebMD, said transmitted information about their users is not personally identifiable and is not being sold to any company, including insurance or public health organizations.
WebMD also said it did not allow third-party companies to combine collected user data collected with other profile information, such as usernames, addresses, or other biographical data.
Scott Meyer, Evidon’s chief executive, told “Financial Times,” “If there is a lot of content that is being provided to you for free, (your) data is driving the economy of that content.”
So should somebody researching health-related items, such as cancer treatments or pediatric flu symptoms, be worried their information will be sold to a third-party company, thus making their identities vulnerable? It’s possible I suppose, but in this age of technology, I don’t see app users dwindling their usage.
However, the easiest thing people can do to ensure their usage won’t be distributed to these third-party companies is to turn off the location services option on their smart phones. It won’t allow you to use the GPS technology that fitness apps utilize to track your running routes, but it will stop many of these popular health apps from tracking your phone for data collection purposes.
Geez, this makes you long for the days when our biggest technological worries included blowing in the original Nintendo cartridges when they got dirty, or choosing between VHS or Beta.