HealthDay News — User data from medicine-related apps are routinely shared, according to a study published online March 20 in The BMJ.
Quinn Grundy, PhD, RN, from the University of Toronto, and colleagues identified medicine-related apps to examine whether and how user data are shared. Data were included for 24 apps pertaining to medicine information, dispensing, administration, prescribing, or use. Laboratory-based traffic analysis was performed for each app, simulating real-world use with four dummy scripts.
The researchers found that 19 (79%) of the sampled apps shared user data. App user data were received or processed by 55 unique entities, owned by 46 parent companies, including developers and parent companies (first parties) and service providers (third parties). Thirty-three percent of these entities provided infrastructure-related services, while 67% provided services related to the collection and analysis of user data, such as analytics or advertising. First and third parties received a median of three unique transmissions of user data. Third parties advertised the ability to share user data with 216 fourth parties; entities within this network had access to a median of three unique transmissions of user data.
“Clinicians should be conscious about the choices they make in relation to their app use and, when recommending apps to consumers, explain the potential for loss of personal privacy as part of informed consent,” the authors write.