Top mental health and prayer apps fail privacy and security tests

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  • Mental health and prayer apps have poor security features.
  • These apps share data with third parties.
  • Teenagers' data and privacy are especially at risk.

Many services are moving into digital space, including apps for mental health and spiritual needs. But researchers warn that some of the most prominent apps for mental health and prayer offer little security, and users' privacy data are vulnerable.

The research, conducted by internet browser organisation Mozilla, investigated the privacy and security practices of 32 mental health and prayer apps. The organisation spent more than 250 hours evaluating apps like AI chatbots, community support pages, prayer journals, and wellbeing assessments. Mozilla found that the prayer and mental health apps were worse than other products reviewed during the past six years.

The top offenders 

The research found that the apps with the worse privacy and security were Better Help, Youper, Woebot, Better Stop Suicide, Pray.com, and Talkspace. Mozilla's findings show that Better Help and Better Stop Suicide had "vague and messy privacy policies", while Youper, Pray.com, and Woebot shared users' personal information with third parties, and Talkspace collected chat transcripts. 

"The vast majority of mental health and prayer apps are exceptionally creepy. They track, share,  and capitalise on users' most intimate personal thoughts and feelings, like moods, mental states, and biometric data. Turns out, researching mental health apps is not good for your mental health, as it reveals how negligent and craven these companies can be with our most intimate personal information," said Jen Caltrider, lead of Mozilla's *Privacy Not Included Privacy Guide.

Gathering data for insurance companies

Mozilla found that mental health apps collect users' data, which are passed on to insurance companies. The organisation also found that third-party platforms like Facebook extract data on users' phones, and that data brokers are expanding their databases with sensitive data. 

Warning to parents of teens

The research shows that teenagers are very vulnerable to unsecured privacy. Mozilla says that many mental health apps target or market themselves to young people, who are most likely to experience mental health issues. Mozilla warns that parents should pay attention to how their child's privacy is handled.

"When teens share information on these apps, it could be leaked, hacked, or used to target them with personalised ads and marketing for years to come," Mozilla said in a press statement.

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