NHS-accredited apps may be leaking data

The apps in question are all listed in NHS England's Health Apps Library

Researchers from Imperial College London have discovered that some of the NHS's approved apps may be leaking sensitive data.

Although the apps appear to have been tested by NHS England's Health Apps Library, some of the apps weren't adhering to privacy standards and some even sent data across the internet without encrypting it.

The process for the research involved looking deeply into 79 apps listed on the library over a period of six months to see how they handled fake data provided to them.

The apps involved in the study covered a range of different subject matters including stopping smoking, losing weight, reducing alcohol intake and keeping fit.

A total 88 per cent of the apps sent personal data to other online services, while 29 per cent sent the data without encrypting it at all, potentially allowing criminalsto intercept it. The data included both personal and health data.

"If we were talking about health apps generally in the wider world, then what we found would not be surprising," said Kit Huckvale, one of the researchers from the university.

However, because they were apps that claimed to have been tested by the Health Apps Library, it's more concerning, he said.

Although more than half of the apps analysed had a privacy policy, the researchers said they didn't clearly state what types of data was being shared or much else.

"We were made aware of some issues with some of the featured apps and took action to either remove them or contact the developers to insist they were updated," NHS England commented.

"A new, more thorough NHS endorsement model for apps has begun piloting this month."

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