Digital Health Technologies

Using digital health in healthcare, research, and education. Information on work/research being done here at UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Tips to help protect you

In a July 2013 report on privacy risks of mobile health and fitness apps, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse stated: “Consumers should not assume any of their data is private in the mobile app environment—even health data that they consider sensitive.  Users must weigh the benefits of the service with the realistic possibility that they are revealing information about their health not only to the app developer or publisher but also to third parties.1” Unlike traditional health care providers, most apps are not subject to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) requirements and consumers must take some thoughtful steps to protect their personal data should they choose to use mobile health apps.

  • Lock your phone with a PIN or password. If possible, set your phone to automatically lock when not in use.2
  • Download from reputable app stores only (e.g. Apple App Store, Google Play Store).2
  • Research apps before you download by looking at user reviews, ratings, and the privacy policy.1,2 Note that the existence of a privacy policy does not necessarily mean your data will be private.
  • Decide if an app really needs access to your location, contacts, calendar, etc. before granting it permission to access these data. 1
  • If you stop using an app, delete it. If the app allows, delete your account and other data.1
  • Avoid texting or emailing sensitive information unless using a secure system.2 The Wi-Fi available in most coffee shops and hotels are unsecure!  If you travel, you might want to consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network).  These can be purchased on a per month or yearly basis.
  • Treat a mobile phone as you would your computer – Don’t click on suspicious or unknown links or attachments. Use solid passcodes for your phone and apps.
  • Make your own assessment of the app's "creepiness" or intrusiveness based on the personal information it asks for in order to use it.  Is the information it is asking for giving away information about you that might have negative repercussions if a data broker were to obtain it?1

 1. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. (2013, July 01). Mobile Health and Fitness Apps: What are the Privacy Risks? Retrieved from

2. McAfee. (2012, January). 10 Quick Tips to Mobile Security. Retrieved from