Report: Health, fitness apps give info to insurance, drug firms

11:49 AM, Sep 5, 2013   |    comments
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(ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE) -- The next time you use a smartphone to access information about migraine symptoms or to determine how many calories are in a menu item, there is a chance the information will be shared with insurance and pharmaceutical companies, reports Financial Times.

The paper reports that according to Evidon, a web analytics and privacy firm, the top-20 health and wellness apps, including MapMyFitness, WebMD Health and iPeriod, are transmitting information to up to 70 third-party companies.

Financial Times adds that third parties, which primarily include advertising and analytics firms, typically use the information gathered from consumers who are tracking diseases, diets, and even menstrual cycles to build profiles or display personalized ads.

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"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 paper said operators of several health-related apps, including WebMD, said transmitted information about their users is not personally identifiable and is not being sold.

WebMD also said it did not allow third-party companies to combine the consumer data collected about its users with other profile information or use it beyond its site.

Evidon's chief executive Scott Meyer said of the growing number of health and fitness apps, "If there is a lot of content that is being provided to you for free, data are driving the economy of that content."

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