Free phone apps may come at a price

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September 1, 2013, 11:53 am
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(NECN/KNSD: Bob Hansen) - Many people are using smart phone apps to keep fit, lose weight or just stay healthy. Those free apps may come at a cost of your personal information.

"When you get more exact with things that can track your pulse, your heart rate, your body temperature, that's information where you can start having a discussion with your doctor about," said tech expert Bridget Carey.

When you're using health and fitness apps to accomplish your goals, there's someone else between you and your doctor - the software developers and people marketing those apps.

"They have your personal information, maybe they know how far you ran, how many calories you took that day," said Kim Gough, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Maybe they keep track of those goals and accomplishments and share them with others. What's the big deal? After all, many of the apps are free.

"You have to make money somehow, some many of these free applications will then sell your information to third party advertisers," said Gough.

Gough said San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse sampled nearly 50 popular health and fitness apps. Do people who download and use these apps know their personal information could be collected and sold?

"I think the majority of them don't have a clear understanding of what the app is doing in terms of their personal data and how it's being utilized," said Gough.

The information gathered may lead to nothing more than you getting an ad for tennis shoes or health food, but the bottom line is that the people behind these apps should disclose what they're doing with your personal information.

"I think we'd like to see the developers of the apps just have a little more transparency and say 'we're gathering this data on you and this is what we're doing with it,'" said Gough.

Experts suggest trying to limit the amount of personal information you provide and if you stop using an app, delete it. Also, delete your personal profile and any data that might be part of the archive.

Tags: Fitness, apps, smartphone, Bob Hansen
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