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Expert Reaction: Security challenges of mobile health apps

Posted on 21 March 2019

An expert in cyber security at the University of York comments on new research from the University of Toronto on the security issues around data sharing by mobile health apps.

When people use apps on a mobile, invariably they lose their privacy

Professor Delaram Kahrobaei, Chair of Cyber Security, at the University of York’s Department of Computer Science, said:“This study highlights an important issue for health professionals and mobile app users. 

"Health mobile apps have long legal documents that users are ‘accepting’ in order to use the app, but they don’t actually address security protocols. When people use apps on a mobile, invariably they lose their privacy, but gain some comfort by ‘accepting’ the legal framework.

“This study, and many others like it, provide scientists with the opportunity to see some of the issues that come with the big data that people give away every day. New computational techniques for example can identify people by combining just a few snippets of data.

Improve lives

“There are ways to protect the private information hidden in big data files, but they limit what scientists can learn about important issues, such as public health, so a balance must be struck between privacy and access to valuable data that could help improve lives.  

“Some medical researchers acknowledge that keeping patient data private is becoming almost impossible; instead, they're testing new ways to gain patients' trust and collaboration.

"Meanwhile, how we think and feel about privacy evolves over time and this study demonstrates that it is important to keep pace with this in order to best serve the consumer.” 

For more information about Cyber Security at York visit the website here.

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