Consumer Reports: Mental health apps may not protect your privacy

Consumer Reports

(CONSUMER REPORTS) — It may not be surprising many people are downloading mental health apps for support these days, but Consumer Reports is warning that sharing deeply personal, sensitive information on some virtual platforms might not be as private as you think.

Mental health apps offer a range of options — from guided mediations to appointments with licensed therapists.

But mental health apps aren’t always covered by the same medical privacy laws, like HIPAA, that protect the information you share with a doctor in person.

And even when HIPAA rules do apply, the laws may not cover all the data an app collects.

Consumer Reports Tech Editor Thomas Germain says “What companies tell you about what they do with your data is often pretty vague and confusing and it’s usually buried in privacy policies, where it can be hard to find.”

Consumer Reports looked at several popular apps and found that many of them sent information to third parties, such as Facebook and Google.

This kind of data is often used for advertising or other business research. And while it’s a common practice, it may not be something you expect from apps that deal with mental health.

“We didn’t see these apps sharing details about your condition or what you’re telling your therapist. But they may be letting other companies know you’re using a mental health app,” said Germain.

Consumer Reports says you should know if and where your data is being shared.

“If you’re using a mental health app, be sure it’s clear about who will be administering your care. It’s worth seeking out licensed mental health professionals, and there are plenty of services that will connect you with them,” advises Germain.

Consumer Reports says there are other ways to receive mental health care or teletherapy outside of an app. Click here for their report on finding affordable mental health therapy.

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