Data Privacy on Apps

How We Handle Your Sensitive Data

Advice From Our General Counsel, Rachael Kierych

As the age-old saying goes, new year, new you! No matter what your resolution is this year, whether it’s weight loss, focusing on your mental health, or improving your sex life, there will certainly be an app that can help along the way. While these products have revolutionized the way people monitor and track their well-being, the collection of sensitive health-related data leaves some users wondering, what happens to my data once it is logged? Is this sensitive health information actually private? What protections do I have to the sharing of my data, if any? 

Unfortunately, the vast majority of consumer health apps are not subject to the laws and regulations we expect in a healthcare context. As a result, the collection, storing, and potential sharing of your health-related data is largely regulated as a matter of contract law governed by the app’s privacy policy. Well…what does this mean? Depending on the privacy policy terms, your data may be vulnerable to data sharing agreements the app has with third parties, among other things. More often than not, that eye-crossing fine print (where you find yourself wondering what does all of this legalese mean?) is one-sided, leaving users with little recourse to the sharing of their personal information if they want to continue using the app and receiving the upside of the services offered. 

Despite these privacy concerns, digital health tech does offer services that are extremely valuable to consumers—e.g., providing users with health-related information when other healthcare services may be unavailable and allowing users to take a more proactive role in managing their health. Research has shown that users are more candid when interacting with technology rather than people, potentially making app data more reliable than traditional medical records. The constant nature of the data collection results in apps collecting more—and sometimes better quality— information than what is obtained through infrequent medical encounters. Thus, digital health tech, used in conjunction with wearables, shows great promise to support health and related decision-making. 

Taking all of this into consideration, you might be finding yourself in a quandary: on the one hand health apps are an incredibly easy way to track health and self-improvement, but on the other, some sensitive information (e.g. menstrual cycle data, your mood, food/alcohol consumption) might not be as private as you think. What can you do to protect your data without deleting your health apps and how can this predicament be addressed? 

First, review your health app’s privacy policy and terms of service to identify what type of data is collected, stored, and/or shared. Then, see what the app’s policy is regarding any modifications to the terms. Research has shown that most health apps reserve the right to change their terms of service and privacy policy without consent and - in some cases – without a clear notice. Look out for this when you sign up and download any health app. Try to find apps that promise to at least notify users when modifications occur, rather than putting the responsibility of staying up to date on the individual consumers themselves. If there are terms that you disagree with or data sharing that concerns you, contact the app and opt-out. 

Here at FirmTech, we understand that data related to erectile fitness and sexual wellness is sensitive information and we have made great efforts to protect your information from disclosure, to use your information only to provide services to you, to improve the service for you, to improve our ability to provide services to other people in a similar situation, and to assist researchers in finding better ways to improve sexual wellness. First, we take security seriously. Our database is HIPPA-compliant, and your data is only accessible to: (i) you via your login information; or (ii) a select member of our team to assist with technical issues. Second, and equally important, we do not sell your data. Any data that is collected is either used by FirmTech to enhance the user experience or is de-identified/anonymized for health-related research purposes to help the scientific community at large. Finally, our privacy policy is not one-sided like many other apps. If we make a material change, we will let you know! There are much better ways to spend your time than wondering about privacy policy updates, such as making love and focusing on your sexual wellness!

With that peace of mind, stay confident, and stay firm. Happy New Year from your friends at FirmTech. 

Rachael Kierych, General Counsel, FirmTech