Availability and Quality of Mobile Health App Privacy Policies
Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, August 2014
12 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2014 Last revised: 12 Feb 2016
Date Written: August 22, 2014
Mobile health (mHealth) customers shopping for applications (apps) should be aware of app privacy practices so they can make informed decisions about purchase and use. We sought to assess the availability, scope, and transparency of mHealth app privacy policies on iOS and Android. Over 35 000 mHealth apps are available for iOS and Android. Of the 600 most commonly used apps, only 183 (30.5%) had privacy policies. Average policy length was 1755 (SD 1301) words with a reading grade level of 16 (SD 2.9). Two thirds (66.1%) of privacy policies did not specifically address the app itself. Our findings show that currently mHealth developers often fail to provide app privacy policies. The privacy policies that are available do not make information privacy practices transparent to users, require college-level literacy, and are often not focused on the app itself. Further research is warranted to address why privacy policies are often absent, opaque, or irrelevant, and to find a remedy.
JEL Classification: L86
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation