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Mental Health Apps have terrible Privacy Protections

According to a recent analysis from researchers at Mozilla, as a category, mental health apps have alarming privacy protections for users than most other apps. Prayer apps also held poor privacy standards, the team discovered.

The vast majority of mental health and prayer apps are exceptionally creepy,” Jen Caltrider, the Mozilla *Privacy Not Included guide lead, said. “They track, share, and capitalize on users’ most intimate personal thoughts and feelings, like moods, mental state, and biometric data.”

In the latest iteration of the manual, the team investigated 32 mental health and prayer apps. Of those apps, 29 were allocated a “privacy not included” warning label, meaning that the group had concerns about how the app organized user data.

The team said that the apps are conceived for sensitive subjects like mental health conditions yet gather large amounts of personal data under vague privacy policies. Most apps also had poor security practices, allowing users to create accounts with weak passwords despite containing in-depth personal information.

The apps with the most harmful practices, according to Mozilla, are Youper, Woebot, Better Stop Suicide, Better Help, Pray.com, and Talkspace. The AI chatbot Woebot, for instance, says it amasses information about users from third parties and shares user information for advertising purposes. Likewise, therapy provider Talkspace contains user chat transcripts.

The Mozilla team said it reached out to the organizations behind these apps to request their policies multiple times, but only three responded.

In-person, traditional mental health care can be challenging for many individuals to find most therapists hold long waiting lists, and navigating insurance and expenses can be a significant barrier to consideration.

The issue got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic when more and more people began to require care. Mental health apps sought to serve that void by making resources accessible and readily obtainable. But that access could reach with a privacy tradeoff, the report indicates.

“They operate like data-sucking machines with a mental health app veneer,” said Mozilla researcher Misha Rykov. “In other words: A wolf in sheep’s clothing,”

Mozilla Firefox is an open-source, free web browser originated by the Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation. It utilizes the Gecko rendering engine to show web pages, executing current and anticipated web standards.

In 2017, Firefox started incorporating new technology under Quantum’s code name to boost parallelism and a more intuitive user interface. Firefox is open for Windows 7 and later renditions, macOS, and Linux. In addition, its unofficial ports are available for diverse Unix and Unix-like operating systems, including NetBSD, illumos, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Solaris Unix.

It is also open for Android and iOS. However, the iOS version utilizes the WebKit layout engine instead of Gecko due to platform necessities, as with all other iOS web browsers. An optimized rendition is also available on the Amazon Fire TV, one of the two main browsers open with Amazon’s Silk Browser.

Firefox was built in 2002 under the code name “Phoenix” by the Mozilla community members who expected a standalone browser rather than the Mozilla Application Suite pile. It proved famous with its testers during its beta phase and praised its speed, security, and add-ons approximated to Microsoft’s then-dominant Internet Explorer 6.

It was unleashed on November 9, 2004, and challenged Internet Explorer’s prominence with 60 million downloads within nine months. It is the spiritual heir of Netscape Navigator, as the Mozilla community was designed by Netscape in 1998 before their acquisition by AOL.