after Reversal of the Roe v. Wade ruling in the United StatesUnder US privacy laws that protect a woman’s ability to terminate a pregnancy, healthcare app providers around the world are facing suspicions about data privacy from users and even account deletions.
A healthcare app can now swing both sides of the pendulum between a law enforcement request and one User’s right to privacy. In India, health app developers and industry observers are taking note of this rise. Will users push back on sharing their data with health apps? Will platforms take additional precautions and assure their users of data privacy? The question is now keeping many players on their toes.
Information and cracks
Anja Kovacs wouldn’t be surprised if trust issues kept people from using health apps. As a founding partner of Feminist Futures who is actively advocating for an embodied approach to data, Kovacs reminds us that this is the critical moment when people begin to see data as they should always be.
“This situation is a good example of the connection between a person’s body and data — especially when decisions based on the data have real consequences for that person,” he said.
According to Raghavendra Prasad TS, lead person at StepOne, a volunteer-run telehealth initiative, the situation may be even more pronounced in India, which has a strong shortage. Data Protection Regulations US “users should exercise discretion over the real value from the data they share,” he said.
Lack of awareness about data privacy is contributing to the problem. Prasad noted that the healthcare technology space in India is still in its infancy, with most laws around data being implemented at the contractual level.
But the silver lining, as Prasad claimed, is that a large part of India’s health tech industry is self-regulated.
“Most business models of apps are not structured around data sharing and I have seen very few examples of this. Health tech is very small and nascent in India compared to mainstream technologies like ridesharing, food and delivery apps,” he said.
Incidentally, Mozilla, which issues product labels that consumers should think twice about buying, found that 28 out of 32 mental health and prayer apps were slapped with a privacy warning label, indicating strong concerns about handling user data.
The reasons are not hard to dig up. Almost all of the apps reviewed are capturing users’ personal data, with some collecting additional data for third-party platforms. Insurance companies can collect additional data on their insureds while data brokers continue to enrich their databases with more sensitive data.
Surprisingly, when it comes to protecting people’s privacy and security, mental health and prayer apps fare worse than any other product category Mozilla researchers have reviewed over the past six years.
“We’re just one disgruntled employee away from having a lot of data on the world,” warns Jayant Ganapathy, director of Plom, an employee health insurance platform.
Ganapathi, who previously led telemedicine, health screening and diagnostics business units at Practo, Connect & Hill, Kickwell and MedTrail, says app developers are not doing enough to address data privacy.
“The situation is critical because we have so many apps in India now, at least eight to 10 mental health apps. We need better standards and companies need to regulate themselves with a keen eye and rigour. Although Information security standards such as ISO 270001 Yes, it’s not that hard to get certified.”
Gen Z users are more aware
Concerns about data privacy are hard to deny, especially in some categories, as observed by Anshul Kamath, founder of Evolve, a mental health and personal growth app that was awarded the best personal growth app by Google last year.
Kamath noted the growing awareness of data rights, especially among Gen Z users who are actively reaching out to develop data privacy issues.
“We believe that data is independent of law SOC2 [Service Organisation Control 2] And GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation], it is our responsibility as a company to create a truly safe space for our users, so for us, privacy will be and will continue to be a high priority. We are also seeing positive policy changes from both Google and Apple where they are ensuring that all app developers start respecting user privacy and data more,” he added.
Ganapathy points out that the real danger is hidden in the dashboards and analytics reports that an operations team member can easily access. “If they’re not easy to download, especially bulk data, then this is a good step to start with.”
As for Dixit Sud, founder of Ayurshakha.com, an aggregator of herbal, organic and Ayurvedic products, says while the practice of sharing data is common, his venture does not look at monetization. “We’re a small player, but we don’t sell data to third parties.”
Evolve’s Kamath echoes that approach and takes pride in protecting data privacy. “Many of our users spend time on our app being vulnerable and honest with themselves and introspecting about areas of their lives and stress.
“Users own their data and can delete their account at any time and we do not share any data with third parties. We have no ads in our app and we ensure that any third-party integration is data privacy compliant,” he said.
Such efforts will be crucial as India’s healthcare market continues to grow According to the India Brand Equity Foundation, India’s healthcare market will touch $372 billion by 2022 while the e-health market will reach around $10.6 billion by 2025.
Add to this, India’s medical tourism market size, which was valued at $2.89bn in 2020, will grow to $13.42bn by 2026. This has led to calls for the industry to be proactive about health data privacy before it becomes a problem. Too big to realize
“Like every crisis, something good will come out of this one,” Kovacs said.