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10 Privacy Recommendations for Health App Developers From the AMA’s Latest Privacy Principles

There has been no lack of new guidance regarding health care cybersecurity in recent weeks. But the American Medical Association’s (AMA) newly released “Privacy Principles” is unique in its aim at entities involved in health care, but not otherwise covered by HIPAA. Increasingly, entities like health app developers gain access to valuable health care information free from HIPAA’s reach. The AMA’s new guidance makes clear, however, that these entities, at least in the AMA’s view, are still responsible for safeguarding consumer privacy. The guidance includes in that responsibility the need to protect information that would historically not be considered personally identifiable, including IP addresses and advertising identifiers from mobile phones. And while the guidance is not binding, it will surely shape the applicable standard of care in future privacy litigation.

Here are 10 significant points for health app developers from the AMA’s Privacy Principles:

  1. At or before the time of collection, make sure consumers know what information you are accessing, using, disclosing, and processing. Don’t use vague statements in a privacy policy that do not give consumers a meaningful understanding of what is happening.
  2. Give consumers the right to control access, use, processing, and disclosure of their data on a granular, rather than document, level.
  3. Give consumers the right to delete their information (exceptions apply).
  4. Allow consumers the ability to access and extract their data in a machine-readable format.
  5. Get opt-in consent before using a consumer’s information to train machines or algorithms.
  6. Minimize the collection and disclosure of health information.
  7. Provide consumers who use apps to access their medical records the ability to annotate their medical records, and have mechanisms to record who made the annotation, how, when, and why.
  8. Do not facilitate discrimination by, for example, creating and sharing risk scores or otherwise providing unconsented access to identifiable medical information that could form the basis for adverse decision-making.
  9. Maintain the confidentiality of consumers’ information.
  10. Make your de-identification processes and techniques publicly available.
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