Health Apps May Share Personal Information

A San Diego privacy group says many of those apps are selling personal information they collect from users

By Consumer Bob
|  Friday, Aug 2, 2013  |  Updated 7:19 PM EDT
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Using technology to stay in shape. Many people are using smart phone apps to keep fit, lose weight or just stay healthy. But those free apps may come at a cost.

Using technology to stay in shape. Many people are using smart phone apps to keep fit, lose weight or just stay healthy. But those free apps may come at a cost.

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Hidden Costs of High-Tech Health

Using technology to stay in shape. Many people are using smart phone apps to keep fit, lose weight or just stay healthy. But those free apps may come at a cost. NBC 7's Consumer Bob reports.
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Whether you are trying to lose weight or get back into shape, there is probably a phone app to help.

But are those apps sharing personal information?

A San Diego privacy group says many of those apps are selling personal information they collect from users.

"You have to make money somehow," said Kim Gough with Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, "Many of these free applications will then sell your information to third-party advertisers."

Collecting data on websites is nothing new. Everyone from Facebook to Google use profiles to market products and services to their users. But few people know their health and fitness apps may be doing the same thing.

"I think the majority of them don't have a clear understanding of what the app is doing in terms of their personal data and how it is being utilized," said Gough.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse studies 43 popular apps. Nearly 72 percent of the apps presented medium to high risk regarding personal privacy.  According to the PRC, free apps were the most likely to sell or collect personal data.

The privacy group says app developers need to do a better job disclosing their privacy policy.

"I think we'd like to see the developers of the apps just have a little more transparency," said Gough, "say we are gathering this data on you and this is what we're doing with it."

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has created a fact sheet on its findings. 

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