OCR Provides Guidance on the Privacy of Data Stored on Health Apps and Mobile Devices | JD Supra

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s resolution in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, many people and organizations have expressed uncertainty in regards to the safety afforded to knowledge saved on well being apps, together with cycle trackers.[1] As a consequence, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued guidance on multiple issues in regards to the assortment and sharing of non-public well being knowledge. Recently, they issued guidance clarifying the extent to which info collected by cycle trackers and different well being apps is protected. The OCR additionally offered tips for people wishing to guard the information saved on their private units or probably shared with third events.

Key Takeaway: Most importantly, the OCR made clear that the privateness and safety guidelines of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) usually don’t shield the privateness or safety of your well being info when it’s saved in your private cell machine. Those guidelines shield the privateness and safety of your medical and different well being info solely when it’s created, acquired, maintained or transmitted by coated entities, together with well being plans and most healthcare suppliers, and their enterprise affiliate distributors.

This implies that web search historical past, info voluntarily shared on-line and geographic location info is just not protected by the HIPAA guidelines and will probably be collected or considered by others. In most instances, the HIPAA guidelines additionally don’t shield the privateness of knowledge you obtain or enter to apps for private use, no matter the place the knowledge got here from. There is a restricted exception for apps (resembling Epic’s digital medical document affected person portal app, MyChart) that had been contracted by or on behalf of a coated entity to help with affected person or member companies; nonetheless, info saved on most generally used apps wouldn’t be protected.

The steering additional warns that merely downloading or utilizing a well being app could also be sufficient to provide the developer permission not solely to gather and retain your info but additionally to promote or share it with knowledge brokers, advertising and analytics corporations, legislation enforcement personnel or others. It’s vital to notice that agreements governing the connection between app builders and third events oftentimes don’t restrict how the third get together could use or additional disclose the knowledge.

Proactive Steps: For these wishing to guard the knowledge on their private units, the OCR outlined steps people can take, particularly altering the settings on their telephone, to forestall sure knowledge from being collected. These steps embody:

  • Avoiding giving any app permission to entry your machine’s location knowledge until completely essential.
  • Turning off location companies and monitoring instruments, resembling cookies, in your units. 
  • Seeking apps that use sturdy encryption when transmitting knowledge.
  • Deleting your account and/or particular info (location, exercise, historical past) from apps you now not use.

If an employer receives questions in regards to the privateness of well being info, they will clarify that well being info saved on cell units is more than likely not protected by HIPAA. Additionally, it is very important observe that whereas people can cut back the quantity of data collected – and probably shared – on their cell units, it’s not doable to eradicate one’s digital footprint utterly.

[1] Period and cycle monitoring apps permit customers to document particular particulars about their menstrual cycle to acquire predictions about when they’re ovulating and most fertile. Some people use these apps to assist them get pregnant, and others use them to keep away from being pregnant.

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