By James Pero For Dailymail.com
Published: 17:39 BST, 22 April 2019 | Updated: 17:39 BST, 22 April 2019
Mental health applications geared towards helping people with addiction and depression are harvesting potentially sensitive user information with little disclosure according to a new study.
In the analysis researchers surveyed 36 of the top-ranked apps for smoking cessation and depression to figure out whether privacy policies adequately conveyed when and how user information would be transmitted to third parties.
The results, they say, show a practice of data collection that is both frequent and opaque.
Medical information is becoming more accessible through the use of easily available health apps, including those focused on mental health. Stock image
Data-sharing in mental health apps is both common and opaque according to a recent report.
While app developers routinely share information to tech companies like Google and Facebook, many fail to disclose practices in their privacy agreements.
The types of information range from advertising data to substance use.
Experts say the practice challenges ethics and laws surrounding relating to medicine.
While 81 percent of the apps studied by researchers regularly collected and transmitted data to commercial entities like Google and Facebook, only 12 percent communicated their practices to users through privacy agreements.
Despite attempts to anonymize data, researchers say the levels of uniquely identifiable information transmitted by each app varied.
In 27 percent of the apps analyzed, 'strong identifiers' were sent -- this