When data is personal but not private

· privacy,privid,data protection,personal data

Turns out, the majority of mental health and prayer apps are pretty creepy—tracking, sharing, and capitalizing on their users’ most intimate personal thoughts and feelings. 

*internally screaming while reading [insert popular therapy app]’s privacy policy*

Per The Verge, a new analysis from researchers at Mozilla shows that as a category, mental health and prayer apps have some of the worse privacy protections, despite collecting large amounts of sensitive personal data tied to your mood, mental state, and biometric data.

  • After analyzing 32 apps, the Mozilla team found that 29 were given a “privacy not included” warning label, raising concerns about user data management. 
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  • Most apps also had poor security practices, letting users create accounts with weak passwords, despite containing personal information. 

According to Mozilla, the worst apps for privacy are Better Help, Youper, Woebot, Better Stop Suicide, Pray.com, and Talkspace. AI chatbot Woebot, for instance, collects user information from third parties and Therapy provider Talkspace collects session transcripts.

  • The report found that Headspace (30 million users globally) does collect, and can share, personal data, although seemingly not as much as some of the other apps.

Why it matters: Self-reported levels of anxiety and depression in Canada peaked at 27% and 17%, respectively, last summer, but in-person, traditional mental health care can be hard to find. Tech can fill the gaps, but increased access may come with a steep privacy tradeoff.

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