Most people have at least a vague feeling that someone somewhere is doing something wrong with the data fingerprints created by their online activities: maybe using an app allows that company to create a profile from their habits, or maybe they continue to be followed by creepy people. advertisement

It's more than a feeling. Many companies in the health-tech industry, which provide services ranging from mental health counseling to sending pills for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in the mail, have surprisingly short-lived privacy practices.

A guide published this month by the Mozilla Foundation found that 26 of 32 mental health apps had lax protections.

Foundation analysts have documented numerous weaknesses in its privacy practices.Jen Caltrider, project manager for Mozilla, said the privacy policies of the apps she used to practice drumming barely differed from the policies of the mental health apps the foundation reviewed, despite the higher sensitivity of what 'they follow them.

Note:- my response read full article The private sector steps in to protect online health privacy, but critics say it can’t be trusted.

"I don't care if anyone knows I practice drums twice a week, but I care if anyone knows I see a therapist twice a week," he said. "That personal data is just another pot of gold for them, for their investors."

The issues have become increasingly pressing in the minds of the public. Apps used by women, such as period trackers and other types of fertility monitoring technology, are now front and center with the potential repeal of Roe v. Wade. Prompted by social media, users are urging each other to delete data stored by these apps, a right not always granted to users of health apps, lest the information be used against them. .

"I think these big data teams are coming to a judgment day," said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “They have to decide: are they going to protect the privacy of the women who do business with them? Or are they essentially going to be sold to the highest bidder? »

To counter these fears, the use of information needs to be better controlled through legislation and regulation. As nurses, hospitals and other healthcare providers comply with privacy protections established by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, the nascent healthcare app industry has fewer protections. for users. .

Although some privacy advocates hope the federal government can step in after years of work, time is running out to find a solution in Congress as November's midterm elections loom.

Enter the private sector. This year, a group of businesses and nonprofits released a report calling for a self-regulatory bill to protect patient data while outside of the healthcare system, an approach that critics compare to the proverbial fox that watches over the henhouse.

The project sponsors tell a different story.

The initiative was developed over two years with two groups: the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Executives for Health Innovation. Ultimately, such an effort would be managed by BBB National Programs, a nonprofit formerly associated with the Better Business Bureau.

Participating companies may hold a variety of data, from genomics to other information, and work with apps, wearables or other products. These companies would accept audits, spot checks, and other compliance activities in exchange for some sort of certification or stamp of approval. Such activity, the authors say, would help fix privacy leaks in the current system.

"It's a real mixed bag: for everyday people, for health privacy," said Andy Crawford, senior data and privacy adviser at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “HIPAA has decent privacy protections,” he said. The rest of the ecosystem, however, has shortcomings.

Yet there is considerable doubt that the private sector proposal will create a workable regulatory system for health data. Many participants, including some of the initiative's most powerful companies and components, such as Apple, Google and 23andMe, pulled out during the gestation process. (A 23-year-old spokesperson