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

See all articles by Ali Sunyaev

Ali Sunyaev

University of Cologne; Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Tobias Dehling

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Patrick Taylor

Harvard University - Medical School

Kenneth Mandl

Harvard University - Medical School

Date Written: August 22, 2014

Abstract

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.

Keywords: mHealth, mobile health, app, privacy policy, privacy notice, privacy statement, information privacy, iOS, Android, application, eHealth, health information technology

JEL Classification: L86

Suggested Citation

Sunyaev, Ali and Dehling, Tobias and Taylor, Patrick and Mandl, Kenneth, Availability and Quality of Mobile Health App Privacy Policies (August 22, 2014). Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, August 2014 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2485118

Ali Sunyaev

University of Cologne ( email )

Albertus-Magnus-Platz
Cologne, 50923
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.isq.uni-koeln.de

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology ( email )

Kaiserstraße 12
Karlsruhe, Baden Württemberg 76131
Germany

Tobias Dehling (Contact Author)

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology ( email )

Kaiserstraße 12
Karlsruhe, Baden Württemberg 76131
Germany

Patrick Taylor

Harvard University - Medical School ( email )

25 Shattuck St
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Kenneth Mandl

Harvard University - Medical School ( email )

25 Shattuck St
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
44
Abstract Views
559
PlumX Metrics