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article imageSecurity flaw spotted with some health apps

By Tim Sandle     Aug 26, 2017 in Health
Health apps designed to assist dementia patients have serious security flaws according to a new expert study. Either the security policies are inadequate or they are lacking altogether.
Health apps, certainly the better ones, are designed with the help of clever medical people, but being clever in one field can mean that areas of interest in another can be overlooked. In a lesson for app developers, a McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School joint study has found that several health apps designed to assist dementia patients, and to support caregivers, have inadequate security policies or they even lack security policies altogether. This tallies with other studies that show how the strengths of digital health, like the ability to reach large and broad samples and collect continuously streaming data on a range of potentially sensitive and possibly illegal behaviors and events, also trigger privacy and security concerns.
The clinicians analyzed privacy polices of iPhone apps matching the search terms "medical + dementia" or "health & fitness + dementia." Next they focused on apps designed to collect user-generated content. From this the clinicians assessed the privacy policies based on criteria for how user-provided data were handled. In all 25 apps were analyzed. It was found that 72 collected user-generated content; however, of these just 33 had privacy policies available. Looking at all of the apps, the researchers discovered "a preponderance of missing information, the majority acknowledged collecting individual data for internal purposes, and most named instances in which user data would be shared with outside parties."
This led the lead researcher Dr. Ipsit Vahia to state that the findings "also points to a role for professional organizations and advocacy groups in helping educate mobile health consumers on how to best make decisions about using this technology."
Although the recent research is about dementia apps in specifically, the general concern about inadequate design provides a less on for developers of other health apps. The research has been published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, in a paper called "Use of Tablet Devices in the Management of Agitation Among Inpatients with Dementia: An Open-Label Study."
More about health apps, Dementia, Cybersecurity
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