Health Apps: Are They Really Good For You?

Health Apps: Are They Really Good For You?

In a world where there are apps for everything from finding the nearest chocolate to paying your kid's allowance, it's no surprise that we're now looking to apps to help bolster our health.

Health and wellness apps—which number in the thousands—cover everything from tracking fertility to mapping your morning jog to monitoring your asthma.

Anything that helps you be more proactive about your health is a good thing, right?

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The Danger Behind Health Apps

It turns out that these apps can hurt you in another way, The New York Times reports. A recent report from nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse that analyzed 43 popular health and wellness apps found that many of these apps connect directly to advertisers and data analysis sites without users' knowledge.

That means all the personal info you surrender to the app in the name of improving your health—email address, height, weight, age, even your geographic location—could be sold to advertisers, who may then use it to send you targeted ads.

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Additionally, very few of the apps encrypt the data they transmit—only 13% of free apps, and 10% of paid ones, do this—meaning that your private medical information could be on display. As a result, privacy risks for consumers are "considerable," the report says, and you should assume that none of the information you input is actually private.

To protect yourself and your personal details, experts recommend reading an app's privacy policy before using it, to get an idea of what can and cannot be shared. This may be easier said than done, however: More than 25% of the free apps and 40% of the paid ones had no privacy policy at all.

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