Today, many people are using smart phone apps to keep fit, lose weight or just stay healthy. But those free apps may come at a cost, the cost of your personal information.
Trying to stay in shape has gone high tech, whether you're watching your diet, your waist line or your emotions. There is a phone or tablet app that promises to help.
"When you get more exact with things that can track your pulse, your heart rate, your body temperature, that's information where you can start having a discussion with your doctor about," says tech expert Bridget Carey.
But when you're using health and fitness apps to accomplish your goals, there's someone else between you and your doctor, the software developers and people marketing those apps.
"They have your personal information, maybe they know how far you ran, how many calories you took that day," explains Kim Gough with Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
And maybe they keep track of those goals and accomplishments and share them with others. What's the big deal, after all many of the apps are free.
"You have to make money somehow, some many of these free applications will then sell your information to 3rd party advertisers," says Gough.
Kim Gough says San Diego based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse sampled nearly 50 popular health and fitness apps. Do people who download and use these apps know their personal information could be collected and sold?
"I think the majority of them don't have a clear understanding of what the app is doing in terms of their personal data, and how it's being utilized," explains Gough.
Now the information they gather may lead to nothing more than you getting an ad for tennis shoes or health food. But the bottom line, the people behind these apps should disclose what they're doing with your personal information.
"I think we'd like to see the developers of the apps just have a little more transparency,” explains Gough. “And say we're gathering this data on you and this is what we're doing with it."
The Privacy Rights study found free apps are more likely to share personal information than paid apps. And when it comes to those privacy policies, good luck finding them? Are they doing this sort of stuff without our knowledge?
"Many are,” says Gough. “We only found about half actually have privacy policies."
Experts suggest limiting the amount of personal information you provide, and avoid putting in certain information that's not necessary for the app. Also delete your personal profile and any data that might be part of the archive.