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Popular app’s terms of service give away your medical history, SSN

Most of us download an app, click “ok” on the terms and conditions and carry on enjoying the app. Here’s why you need to read those terms.

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We all click “I accept” without reading

We’ve all done it. A friend tells you about this great new app and you hop onto your app store and download it, anxiously awaiting its completion so you can start using it. Before you can start enjoying the app, however, you usually need to accept the app’s “terms of service.” You know, that annoying pop-up that contains endless amounts of legal mumbo jumbo?

Most of us just click “I accept,” or “OK” so that we can begin using the app, but you may want to re-think this impetuous acceptance. Here’s why: your personal information is being shared with your permission, but without your knowledge because you didn’t read all twenty pages of the terms of service.

What you could be giving up

By agreeing to the terms of service you may be giving up control of your intellectual property, agreeing to be a research subject, and a whole host of other things, including, allowing companies to collect and distribute your personal information; including your medical information.

Popular app gives up your detailed info

PBS’ NewsHour recently found a rather large privacy issue with ZocDoc, a popular app for scheduling appointments with medical providers.

They found that section seven of ZocDoc’s terms states, “it (ZocDoc), and others working on the company’s behalf, may use or disclose users’ names, addresses, social security numbers, medical histories, current medical needs and insurance information, as long doing so is in line with ZocDoc’s privacy policy.” This is more than just a bit worrisome.

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The privacy policy also states that ZocDoc may transfer users’ personal information to another company in connection with a sale, acquisition or other change of ownership, meaning ZocDoc could transfer user information to separate companies with different terms of use. If this isn’t reason enough to comb through those terms of service statements, I don’t know what is.

ZocDoc weighs in

NewsHour was contacted by ZocDoc with the following statement: “Just like in banking, travel and even online shopping, technology has changed how personal information is transmitted—but the responsibility to protect that information is still of the utmost importance. That’s why all ZocDoc team members are HIPAA trained and oriented around our No. 1 core value: Patients First. We take the greatest care of patient information. We would never share it inappropriately.”

Yet they reserve the right to store your info indefinitely

However, the company also reserves the right to store all information indefinitely, including information from closed accounts; which raises the question: can a user expect personal information to disappear entirely? I am not sure. I am certain, however, that ZocDoc is not the only offender. Check your apps’ privacy policies to see how your information is being used.

The bottom line here is: check the terms of service on your apps before you simply click “I agree,” especially if the app will be used in conjunction with any type of personal, or sensitive information.


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Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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  1. Pingback: Social Hunt: creepy app or helpful? We're conflicted... - AGBeat

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