With almost 200 health apps being added onto app stores daily by healthcare companies, and a continuous rise in health app downloads, it is important consumers are able to trust health apps with their data, and health apps are transparent on their data collection policies. This article will explore why there has been a change in customer data ownership statistics, with 74% of UK consumers now willing to share personal data with brands that have transparent data collection policies, as well as explore how the future of consumer data collection will be.
Research studies by the British Medical Journal  conducted an analysis of more than 20,000 mobile health apps on the Google Play Store and found that 9 out of 10 mobile health apps collect and track user data. This study also highlighted that 28% of health apps did not provide any privacy statement with their users, which is against Google Play’s terms of service, and may be considered a concern as users do not realise their data is being harvested. Focusing on data which was collected, this study highlighted apps had the ability to collect the following data:
Despite this, research highlighted only 4%of mobile health apps transmitted data to a 3rdparty –namely the user’s name and location information. In this form, it would be done for advertising services and tracking companies, which is a form of data mining. Although the 4% may seem like a small percentage, it still represents a substantial number of apps, and further evaluations predict it may be higher than 4% due to the app testing used by the researchers .
In most cases, third parties are responsible for the majority of data collection. Research from the previous study of mobile health apps indicated 665 third parties were involved with data collection, with major tech companies such as Google and Facebook accounting for the majority of data collection. This is a concern where many app users were unaware of this data transmission. Further concerns with data transmission are highlighted where third parties share data with fourth parties. A BMJ study involving 24 apps highlighted that third parties shared user data with 216 fourth parties , which is a major concern to those app users who are unsure what their data is being used for. Overall, this becomes an issue where apps are not transparent with their users over their data collection policies, thus limiting consumer trust.
According to Experian, there are 4 different types of consumers–Unaware, Acceptor, Cautious & Incognito . This highlights there is a difference in consumers, and not all customers will be willing to share their data in the same way.
Despite the difference in consumers, it appears all consumers are willing to share their data, however different consumer groups accept terms and conditions in different ways –some may instantly accept conditions, whereas others will take further precautions and build trust with the company before accepting conditions. Further consumer studies highlight consumers are becoming more transparent with companies and are more willing to share their data.
A Deloitte study with4,150 consumers revealed consumers less consumers would label themselves as ‘very concerned’ about how online brands share and handle their data, which is down from the 47% reported two years prior. Additionally, more consumers appear to be sharing their personal data with companies, where 61% have shared their email address, 59% have shared their name, and 42% have shared their location. This indicates consumers are willing to be more transparent with businesses and their personal data. The main reason for this appears to be GDPR, which ensures consumer data is only shared with businesses if permission is explicitly granted, as well as gives consumers further rights.
Nevertheless, some consumers still appear to feel concerned about their privacy, thus have taken action to ensure their data remains secure. This includes81% taking action due to data privacy concerns, 40% have deleted an app, and 43% have removed their browser history. This indicates consumers are still wary about sharing their data with online platforms, thus companies must ensure they improve compliance and consumer confidence through building trust and remaining transparent with consumers.
As previously stated, consumers who perceive a brand to be ‘trustworthy’  are more likely to share their data with companies, as they are more likely to protect their information. Therefore, it can be assumed that those companies who do not carefully protect consumer information are more likely to receive a bad reputation, and lose the confidence  of consumers.
 The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/jun/17/nine-out-of-10-health-apps-harvest-user-data-global-study-shows
 Data Collection ‘pervasive’ among Mobile Health Apps, RSS, https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2021/06/data-collection-pervasive-among-mobile-health-apps/
 The BMJ, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l920
 Forbes, Forbes Magazine, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2019/11/20/understanding-consumers-attitudes-about-data-sharing-and-building-trust/?sh=37d9fb6d452a
 Protecting customers’ privacy requires more than anonymizing their data, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2018/06/protecting-customers-privacy-requires-more-than-anonymizing-their-data
 Center on Global Brand Leadership | Columbia Business School, https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/globalbrands/research/future-of-data-sharing