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The complexity of mental health app privacy politics

Sunday, April 4, 2021

/ by mansuralisaha

 


The News Cover: IF YOU BEEN MORE STRESSED OUT SINCE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC MANY FOLKS ARE TURNING TO APPS FOR THE MENTAL HEALTH. THERE ARE THINGS YOU WANT TO CONSIDER BEFORE USING ONE. IT’S BEEN CHALLENGING FOR ALL OF US, HASN’T IT? STRESSES OF THE PAST YEAR HAVE INCREASED FOR PEOPLE. PEOPLE THAT HAVE NEVER ACCESSED CARE ARE USING IT. 

TALK SPACE CONNECTS USERS WITH LICENSED THERAPIST WITH UNLIMITED TEXT FOR A UNLIMITED TEXT FOR A SUBSCRIPTION. BUT YOU CAN COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR THERAPIST AND WRITE SOMETHING AT ANY POINT DAY OR NIGHT. INTERACTIONS WITH THERAPISTS ON TALK SPACE AND SIMILAR ACTS ARE PROTECTED BY HIPAA, A ARE PROTECTED BY HIPAA, A FEDERAL DATA PRIVACY LAW.

 WE DO NOT SELL THE DATA. BUT NOT ALL MENTAL HEALTH APPS ARE CREATED EQUAL. WITH THOUSANDS ON THE MARKET OFFERING EVERYTHING FROM BREATHING EXERCISES TO AI CHATBOX, MANY ARE UNREGULATED. A LOT OF THESE APPS OPERATE IN A GRAY AREA WHERE THE APP IS NOT COVERED BY THE LAW UNLESS IT’S CONNECTING DIRECTLY WITH EYE DOCTOR. 

AN INVESTIGATION LOOKED AT SEVEN MENTAL HEALTH APPS AND FOUND THE SERVICES AND DATA PRIVACY OFFERED VARIES WIDELY. IN SOME CASES DATA WAS SHARED WITH THIRD PARTIES INCLUDING FACEBOOK. 

THE FACT THAT YOU ARE SEEKING CARE FOR MENTAL HEALTH COULD BE A PIECE OF DATA THAT IS USED FOR ADS ENDING UP FOR OTHER PURPOSES THAT YOU MIGHT OTHER PURPOSES THAT YOU MIGHT NOT BE COMFORTABLE WITH WERE NOT AWARE OF. 

CONSUMER REPORTS DOES NOT WARN AGAINST USING THE APPS ALTOGETHER BUT SUGGESTS DOING RESEARCH ABOUT A PRIVACY POLICY BEFORE YOU DOWNLOAD. AS YOU DO THE RESEARCH WILL COME WITH A RESPONSE AND MANY APPS WILL SAY THAT THEY PROTECT APPS WILL SAY THAT THEY PROTECT DATA PRIVACY BY THE IDENTIFYING APPS FROM THEIR USERS. HOWEVER, THEY CAN STILL CONNECT THE USER INFORMATION INCLUDING THE IP ADDRESS OF YOUR COMPUTER, MOBILE DEVICE, WITH THE APP ITSELF. SO THEY STILL MAY HAVE ADS

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