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If you use health apps, your privacy is at risk

Technology touches almost every part of our lives nowadays. It’s not just bigger, better TVs to binge-watch your favorite shows or faster processing smartphones to post every moment of our lives on social media.

We now have cool tech like robots that help keep our homes clean and smart appliances we can control with just a few words. Tech even plays a big role in our health, with the use of fitness trackers and smartwatches. Don’t know which one to get? Tap or click here to find out if a fitness tracker or smartwatch is better for you.

There is a downside to using all of this technology: A loss of privacy. You might be shocked to find out just how much information health apps actually have on you, and how it could negatively impact your life.

Do the number of steps you take really need to be kept private?

You’re probably thinking, “Who cares if the number of steps that I take in a day isn’t guarded like it’s a matter of national security?” And you’re right, it shouldn’t be a big deal. But it is.

That’s because health apps keep track of things that could be used against you when it comes to the costs of life or health insurance, and even how potential employers view your worth. Let me explain.

I’m sure by now you know that most everything you do online is being tracked. Companies like Facebook and Google keep tabs on our every movement under the guise of providing users with targeted ads. Tap or click here to see how websites track you.

But Google recently announced it’s acquiring the popular fitness tracker Fitbit, for a little more than $2 billion. That sparked a firestorm on Twitter, with people lamenting the probable loss of privacy.

Fitbit tried to calm user fears by responding with a press release. It said the company would never sell personal information and promised health data would not be used for ads. But with Google at the helm, can you really trust that?

Related: See what Google tracks about you and learn how to delete it

There’s definitely cause for concern. Whenever you sign up to use an app, in most cases you need to accept its privacy agreement first. Most people don’t bother reading the details of these agreements, since they’re super long and in fine print.

Once you accept the terms, you’re basically giving the company permission to collect whatever info it wants and it can use that information in any way it sees fit — including targeted ads.

What if targeted ads were just the tip of the iceberg? What if your health information was sold to other companies?

Think about it, if you have a slight health condition and your insurance company found out, it could raise your premiums. And what if the information wasn’t accurate?

For example, if you don’t wear your fitness tracker 24/7, it could seem like you’re living a sedentary lifestyle, which could lead to health problems down the road. Insurance companies could use that information to charge you more than you should be paying.

Also, if you’re looking for a new job, potential employers could use your health tracker’s information against you. They might pass up qualified candidates due to potential health problems and hire someone else they deem less of a liability.

These concerns are real and should be taken seriously. The good news is there are ways to keep your information private.

How to keep your health information private

Since health trackers and smartwatches with built-in health apps are great ways to stay healthy, we wouldn’t discourage you from using them; however, it’s important to keep your personal information private. An attorney recently told the NY Post a few ways to do that.

Here are his suggestions for keeping your health information private:

  • Read the fine print – When downloading apps, make sure you read the fine print in the terms of agreement. If anything seems suspicious, don’t accept. Also, look for ways to opt out from apps being able to sell or share your data with other companies.
  • Limit location tracking – To keep apps from tracking your every movement every moment of the day, change your location setting to “while using” or “ask” for iPhone apps. For Android apps, select “only in use” or “denied.”
  • Stop the targeted ads – You can change settings on your device to limit or stop targeted ads.
    • For iOS devices – Open Settings >> Privacy >> Advertising >> toggle the switch next to “Limit Ad Tracking” to the right to turn it on.
    • For Android devices – Open Settings >> Privacy >> Ads >> toggle the switch next to “Opt Out Of Ad Personalization” to the right to turn it on.
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