Smartphone medical apps raise privacy concerns

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Experts are worried the added access to personal information will bring privacy issues. (KABC)

More and more sensor-equipped products are on the market to help you track your health, with just the touch of a few buttons on your smartphone.

Heather Brooker uses a thermometer connected to an app on her smartphone to take her daughter's temperature when she's sick.

"It's a great tool for me because a lot of times when your child is sick, you forget things because you're so focused on them," she says.

The app then registers whether her daughter has a fever and logs the data along with any medications or symptoms she has.

It's one of many new devices that are part of a trend in high-tech medicine, from pregnancy tests to stickers that tell you when you're getting too much sun.

However, with the added access to personal information, experts wonder about privacy issues.

"There is a medical app, and in addition to other fields it collects, it collects your SMS metadata," said Pam Dixon of World Privacy Forum. "It collects everyone who you've called, their phone number, and it collects how long you've talked to them and how often."

A recent study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that privacy policies on health apps are often weak or completely missing.

In addition, health innovations are not necessarily covered under health privacy laws or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Dixon warns that if users give medical information to someone who is not a doctor and not covered under HIPAA, the information is not bound by that privacy law.
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