The applications that offer services for mental health care are the ones that present less security for the privacy of the users compared to the rest of the ‘apps’, according to an analysis carried out by Mozilla.
According to the ‘Privacy Not Included’ study, these applications, as well as those dedicated to prayer, mostly have poor privacy standards, as the company’s analysts were able to verify. “The vast majority of prayer and mental health apps are especially creepy,” said the person leading this study, Jen Caltrider, in a statement reproduced by The Verge.
According to Caltrider, these apps are capable of tracking, sharing, and capitalizing on personal thoughts and feelings “such as mood, state of mind, or biometric data” of users. In order to reach these conclusions, the researchers analyzed a total of 32 applications that offer services related to prayer and mental health.
Of these, 29 applications were cataloged with the warning label of ‘Privacy not included’, which indicates the degree of protection they offer over the data of the users who use them and the way in which they manage them.
Furthermore, most applications also have weak security passwords, despite containing sensitive data of the users who download them.
In this sense, the applications with the worst security practices that they identified are Better Help, Youper, Woebot, Better Stop Suicide, Talkspace and Pray.com, according to the analysis carried out by Mozilla. Of these, one of the least secure is Woebot, which integrates a Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot and collect information about users to share with third parties for advertising purposes.
Talkspace, on the other hand, is capable of collecting all user chat transcripts as it does not feature end-to-end encryption.
Only Wysa, Glorify and Headspace managed to survive this sieve, which are listed as the applications that most and best protect the confidentiality of user data. In the case of the first, moreover, it is the application itself that offers recommendations to preserve privacy.
COVID-19 AND CONFIDENTIALITY
According to the developer of the Firefox web browser, the rise of this type of application took place in the expansion of Covid-19, when more and more users placed their trust in mental health ‘apps’.
In order to meet these needs, the developers of these services put immediacy and accessibility before privacy, according to Mozilla in its report. “They operate like machines that suck data under the guise of being mental health applications,” commented researcher Misha Rykov, who has assured that they are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”