Watch out: Your private health app data may impact your credit report

Image result for Watch out: Your private health app data may impact your credit reportIt’s a sad fact of our late capitalist world that data is one of the hottest currencies. Every move you make online–and sometimes off, too!–is likely being tracked in some way and then sold to the highest bidder. New research shows that even health apps, which often store users’ most personal information, are also sharing the data they collect. To make matters worse, for many of these programs, it’s simply impossible to opt out.

The study was performed by a team of researchers in Australia, Canada, and the U.S., reports Gizmodo. They decided to download 24 of the most popular health-related apps on Android. For each app, the team made four fake profiles and each used the programs 14 times. On the 15th time, they slightly changed the information they provided to the apps and tracked if the network traffic changed. This way, the researchers were able to see if the apps shared the data change, as well as where they shared it.

The findings were depressing. Writes Gizmodo:

Overall, they found 79 percent of apps, including [popular apps Medscape, Ada, and Drugs.com], shared at least some user data outside of the app itself. While some of the unique entities that had access to the data used it to improve the app’s functions, like maintaining the cloud where data could be uploaded by users or handling error reports, others were likely using it to create tailored advertisements for other companies. When looking at these third parties, the researchers also found that many marketed their ability to bundle together user data and share it with fourth-party companies even further removed from the health industry, such as credit reporting agencies. And while this data is said to be made completely anonymous and de-identified, the authors found that certain companies were given enough data to easily piece together the identity of users if they wanted to.

Essentially, most of the apps were sharing the data users’ input in some capacity, and often that information was shared once again with another entity. Sometimes the data would be used for advertising, other times for something related to credit reporting. (According to the study, only one credit reporting agency had an agreement with a third party: Equifax. Of course, it’s not terribly comforting that the company had one of the largest hacks in recent memory.)


 

The sad part is that these findings aren’t terribly surprising, nor are they illegal. Most apps broker user data in some capacity. Usually they use it for marketing and advertising, yet, as the credit report agency example shows, the data could be shared with truly anyone for myriad purposes. While third parties claim to anonymize the data, it’s been repeatedly proven that it can easily be re-identified.

As for disclosure, the companies behind these apps likely tell users in legalese that they share data with third parties. Every app has a privacy policy, but they are usually designed so that people glaze over the words and reflexively click “accept.” Meanwhile, this study found that all of the apps that shared data made it impossible to opt out.

The two real lessons from studies like these are that users of digital health programs need to be vigilant with the programs they use. It’s possible to protect your data, but it takes a lot of homework. But most of all, there needs to be a heightened call to protect consumers from these predatory practices.

Today, we dig deeper into your health privacy as part of our series The Privacy Divide, and find that what you don’t know about your health data could make you sick.

[“source=fastcompany”]

Despite recent setbacks, India needs more private education

Currently, private schools can only be run as an educational charitable trust which means any profits the school makes have to be retained and cannot be taken out. In turn, the government often provides land at highly concessional rates to set up these schools. Photo: HT

Currently, private schools can only be run as an educational charitable trust which means any profits the school makes have to be retained and cannot be taken out. In turn, the government often provides land at highly concessional rates to set up these schools. Photo: HT

In the wake of the tragic murder of a seven-year-old boy at Ryan International School in Gurugram, followed just a few days later by the ghastly molestation of a little girl at a school in the capital, the lens is once again on private schools. In any case, the business of private education has been under fierce scrutiny for a long time now with the Delhi government currently engaged in a battle of wills with private schools over fee hike which it deemed exorbitant. Government schools, by contrast, are seen as catering to the poor and the marginalized.

The manner in which the debate has been framed seems to suggest a different set of expectations from private and government schools. That relates not just to outcomes but also to conduct and staff behaviour besides, of course, physical infrastructure. Given the kind of money they pay, parents of children who attend private schools, expect high standards of safety and security.

Evidence now suggests that’s not been happening. Indeed, private schools, which abound in India and have a long history in the country, haven’t quite delivered the goods.

India’s best colleges in engineering, management, medical and legal education have carved out a name for themselves in global ratings of higher education institution even if their rankings in various lists tend to be low because of a few factors. The same, however, cannot be said of even the elite private schools in the country, none of which have any global standing. That may be because they are forced to adhere to a curriculum and structure that lacks both imagination as well as excellence. But that doesn’t absolve them of their continued mediocrity.

All this suggests that private education isn’t the way to go for India in terms of quality as well as quantity. In developed Western countries with much higher GDP, the bulk of school education is in the public domain with only a few private schools catering to the rich. In the US, for instance, only about 10% of schools are in the private domain.

Yet, in India, even though government schools outnumber private institutions, they have been grossly inadequate in meeting the aspirations of the people. With a few exceptions, Delhi being one of them, most Indian states seem completely incapable of providing a half decent education infrastructure for young Indians.

According to research by Geeta Kingdon Gandhi, professor of education and international development at the Institute of Education, London, and president of City Montessori School, a private institution in Lucknow, as quoted by IndiaSpend, between 2010-11 and 2015-16, the number of private schools in India grew 35% from 220,000 in 2010-11 to 300,000 in 2015-16. By contrast, the number of government schools in the same period grew just 1%, from 1.03 million to 1.04 million. This, despite the fact that the 2009 Right to Education Act as per which all children between the ages of six and fourteen should be provided free and compulsory education, effectively makes it mandatory for state governments to set up more schools.

If the growth in numbers is beyond the capacity of the states, any improvement in quality isn’t even a priority. Indian students fare abysmally in global tests related to early school education.

Admittedly, in a few of the states like Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, government schools have been seen to outperform private schools in reading skills in local languages, once household and parental characteristics were controlled for, according to a state-wise analysis in Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014.

Part of the reason why private schools have failed to deliver is also because they have little transparency in their working and consequently, no accountability. Currently, private schools can only be run as an educational charitable trust which means any profits the school makes have to be retained and cannot be taken out. In turn, the government often provides land at highly concessional rates to set up these schools. It isn’t a model that can appeal to a company. Those that do have to use a complicated method whereby the school trust hands over its management and operations to a private company against a steep charge.

Instead of the current debate about private versus public schools, the focus should be on enabling the private sector to set up more schools but under direct and close scrutiny of regulatory authorities. Given the limited resources of the states, there is no point heading off private intuitive in education. Instead, it should be encouraged but made much more accountable for quality and conduct.

Sundeep Khanna is a consulting editor at Mint and oversees the newsroom’s corporate coverage. The Corporate Outsider will look at current issues and trends in the corporate sector every week.

[“Source-livemint”]

Why This Private Business is Heading to the Moon (Watch)

  • play iconThis Company Wants To Mine The Moon. Now It Has The Money To Get ThereThis Company Wants To Mine The Moon. Now It Has The Money To Get There
  • play iconBacking Off These Pesticide Restrictions Could Be Bad For BeesBacking Off These Pesticide Restrictions Could Be Bad For Bees
  • play icon'The Greatest Show On Earth' Is Ending‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ Is Ending
  • play iconThe Eiffel Tower Might Be Getting A MakeoverThe Eiffel Tower Might Be Getting A Makeover

For the first time ever, a private company is heading to the moon. Moon Express got the approval from the U.S. government last year. And it recently raised enough money to make the trip.

The company’s goal is ultimately to mine the moon for resources. But that could be more easily said than done.

The U.S. has already enacted a law that would allow private companies to mine resources from space. But the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 says that the “exploration and use” of celestial bodies can only be done for the benefit of all countries. So some think that private companies mining the moon’s resources wouldn’t meet that criteria, and thus would violate international law.

But since it’s essentially uncharted territory for private businesses, it’s possible that it could all work out. Of course, it’s also possible that Moon Express could spend all of its money exploring and laying the groundwork and then find out that they can’t actually accomplish their main goal.

Always Examine the Risks and Rewards Ahead of Time

When dealing with new territory, no matter what the actual industry, there’s going to be a lot of risk involved. In your small business, be sure to explore the risks and rewards before venturing into the unknown of a new product or service.

The Moon Photo via Shutterstock

More in: Videos

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Why This Private Business is Heading to the Moon (Watch)

  • play iconThis Company Wants To Mine The Moon. Now It Has The Money To Get ThereThis Company Wants To Mine The Moon. Now It Has The Money To Get There
  • play iconBacking Off These Pesticide Restrictions Could Be Bad For BeesBacking Off These Pesticide Restrictions Could Be Bad For Bees
  • play icon'The Greatest Show On Earth' Is Ending‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ Is Ending
  • play iconThe Eiffel Tower Might Be Getting A MakeoverThe Eiffel Tower Might Be Getting A Makeover

For the first time ever, a private company is heading to the moon. Moon Express got the approval from the U.S. government last year. And it recently raised enough money to make the trip.

The company’s goal is ultimately to mine the moon for resources. But that could be more easily said than done.

The U.S. has already enacted a law that would allow private companies to mine resources from space. But the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 says that the “exploration and use” of celestial bodies can only be done for the benefit of all countries. So some think that private companies mining the moon’s resources wouldn’t meet that criteria, and thus would violate international law.

But since it’s essentially uncharted territory for private businesses, it’s possible that it could all work out. Of course, it’s also possible that Moon Express could spend all of its money exploring and laying the groundwork and then find out that they can’t actually accomplish their main goal.

Always Examine the Risks and Rewards Ahead of Time

When dealing with new territory, no matter what the actual industry, there’s going to be a lot of risk involved. In your small business, be sure to explore the risks and rewards before venturing into the unknown of a new product or service.

The Moon Photo via Shutterstock

More in: Videos

[“source-ndtv”]