News Feature | July 30, 2014

FTC: ‘We Don't Know' Where App Collected Data Goes

Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

FTC Doesn't Know Where Healthcare App Data Goes

In a recent roundtable discussion, FTC Commissioner Brill warned we don’t know where the information collected by our dozens of apps really goes.

FTC Commissioner Julie Brill expressed concern regarding mobile data collection in a recent roundtable discussion led by Association for Competitive Technology Executive Director Morgan Reed. According to Reuters, Brill was concerned, “about the way apps on smartphones and mobile devices are siphoning sensitive health data, and how some of that information may then be shared with third parties.”

"We don't know where that information ultimately goes," Brill told the panel. "It makes consumers uncomfortable."

This all follows an FTC report released in May which found app developers were sharing patients’ data with more than 76 third-party users, including marketers. Venturebeat cites a shocking case of marketers using data culled from patient apps, specifically an app from Target that was able to predict its female user’s pregnancies in order to market baby products to them. However, consumers were unaware of this and one woman’s family only found out she was pregnant after seeing the promotional materials she received in the mail.

“In the nearly two decades since the Commission first began to examine data brokers, little progress has been made to improve transparency and choice. While data brokers provide important benefits to consumers, and some data brokers have taken steps to improve their privacy practices, overall transparency in this industry continues to be lacking,” concluded the report.

“And with the emergence of new sources of information, improvements in analytics methods, and the availability of more granular information about individual consumers, the need for consumer protections in this area has never been greater.

"The mobile health industry needs to educate the FTC about why collecting health data can provide better health outcomes," said Reed after the panel. "If we fail to do this, the commission could take action that would devastate app developers."