In recent times, the tech market has exploded with an almost infinite range of health and fitness apps that can tell you anything from how many steps you have taken in a day to how many times you rolled over or woke up during the night. The ability to access such data can give a user the type of in-depth knowledge and control over their overall health and fitness that could only have been dreamed about just a few years ago. Nonetheless, experts have drawn attention to growing ethical concerns surrounding how the data harvested by health apps is being used by the companies that produce them. Read on for some frightening potential privacy issues related to the use of health and fitness apps.
1. Targeted Advertising
Most free health and fitness apps take your data to create a detailed profile of you. This profile is then used to target the user with in-app advertising specifically designed encourage them to buy things that they think will be attractive to people in their age group, gender and who share a similar body type. This opens up a large ethical grey area. For example, your weight-loss app is probably able to detect when you are likely to slip up in your diet. This data could then potentially be used to advertise snacks or sugary drinks to you in your weakest moments.
2. Movement Tracking
The data collected by fitness trackers that measure how many steps you take in a day is very valuable to insurance companies. Any sudden changes in the average daily distance walked by a user could indicate the occurrence of a health problem. If this data was sold to a health insurance provider, it could potentially be used to raise a person’s health insurance rate due to a perceived increase in the likelihood of future claims.
3. Women’s Health
Many women these days use apps to keep track of their menstrual cycle. Any drastic changes in user data patterns could potentially indicate pregnancy which could be misused to limit a woman’s employment opportunities if sold to recruitment agencies.
4. Heart Rate Monitor
Apps that keep track of your heart rate can be very useful to gauge your overall stamina. But have you ever thought how the data they generate could be used by third parties to assess your risk of developing a heart condition? Insurance companies are willing to offer a lot of money for this kind of data, which could potentially be used to blacklist people considered too risky to insure.
5. Data Breaches
Whenever we give our data to a service provider, we expect them to keep it safe. However, we have no guarantees that the data will not be lost or stolen to be sold on to third parties to use in any manner they should so choose.
Health and fitness apps offer an unprecedented insight into the inner workings of our bodies. However, all such apps come with a risk. Make sure you read the terms and conditions before you input your personal information into any app. You never know what your data could be being used for.