There are some mental health apps and prayer apps that have poor privacy policies and end up collecting data on their users and, in some cases sharing it. Many apps come under scrutiny for privacy concerns. It just came out that Facebook doesn’t know what happens to the data it collects. This is worrying because the company collects a lot of information. This news gets even worse because a leaked document further stated that the tech company has no way of controlling the data.
While, at this point, people know Facebook is collecting and sharing their information, mental health apps are not the type of app someone would expect to be collecting data. Users go to these sites for help and assume that their information is protected like it would be if they were going into an in-person place for mental health help. The last thing someone should be worrying about on these apps is how their information is being used.
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Mozilla created a “Privacy Not Included guide” where it analyzed 32 mental health and prayer apps and was concerned about 29 of them. Some of the issues were their privacy policies weren’t clear about what they did with the data. The worst offenders were therapy websites, BetterHelp and Talkspace. Talkspace collects user chat transcripts but says it doesn’t share any medical information but could be used for targeted marketing. BetterHelp collects data from a patient’s intake questionnaire. Both sites collect “name, age, email address, and phone number.” BetterHelp’s website says it may share information with third parties like advertisers and “subsidiaries or parent companies within their corporate group.”
Beware Of These Mental Health Apps
Other apps that are the worst offenders are Better Stop Suicide and Calm. Mozilla’s analysis of Better Stop Suicide found that it can share a user’s information with just about anyone if they are not a stranger. Most of the information collected is the basics, and it also gathers home addresses and IP addresses. No one wants these to be collected and shared, but with BetterHelp collecting and possibly sharing data on how you are feeling, that’s even more alarming. The meditation app Calm also gathers data on its user’s moods. It uses it for targeted ads. This is something most apps do, but as Mozilla pointed out, what if the user is stressed out, so it gives them an ad for wine, and they happen to be a recovering alcoholic? A user’s mental health should never be used for targeted ads. That should always be off-limits to what information can be collected and used.
Mental health apps grew in popularity over the pandemic. These became comforts for people stuck inside their homes. They could find solace in a meditation app or more help from online counseling. Most of the privacy concerns are similar to using any app. Mozilla found that these apps were vague in their privacy policies, using “may” a lot to give themselves wiggle room. That leaves a lot of questions about how the information is used. Mental Health apps should be even more cautious with users’ data since they are coming to the site for help. Users can use Mozilla’s guide to find apps that are right for them with better privacy policies.