You might want to rethink this new meditation app | Robinson+Cole Data Privacy + Security Insider

[author: Blair Robinson]*

Researchers from the Mozilla Foundation reviewed the privacy policies of 32 mental health apps ranging from guided meditation to telehealth counseling services and flagged 28 of them as having “privacy is not included.” Additionally, the report sorts apps by “Not scary!” to “Super Scary!” (The rankings are each accompanied by a delightful face emoji displaying the appropriate level of concern.) The team also detailed each app, outlining specific concerns.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ “PTSD Coach” is the gold standard of the “Not Scary!” camp, as it does not collect any personal data and allows users to opt out of anonymous sharing. The only complaint from the researchers was that the Google Play Store app hadn’t been updated in a while – not a bad review for a VA app!

In contrast, several telehealth apps topped the “Super Creepy” category. The report describes how these apps collect large amounts of sensitive personal information through their intake forms and have “vague and messy” privacy policies riddled with red flags. For example, one policy hadn’t been updated since 2018, and another gave the company — again, a mental health care provider — the right to sell information to advertisers.

My favorite personal profile was a popular Bible app developed by a company that the Mozilla team traced to a mysterious and controversial Chinese mobile game developer. The app inexplicably collects GPS location and the privacy policy includes this gem instead of opt-out language: “You may opt-out of submitting personal information to any of our services, in which case we may not be able to not provide these services to you.” The past few years have been difficult, and you may be looking for new ways to support your mental health. But don’t compromise your data to do so – good privacy habits are also self-care. See the full report here.

*non-lawyer trainee

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