How eTreatAcne is different from other apps that help you track your health.
Keeping track of your lifestyle, treatments, stress and menstrual cycle can be one of the most powerful tools in taking ownership and control over your health and understanding what factors may be contributing to breakouts or inflammation in your body. As someone who finds this data invaluable, I started tracking my diet, sleep, stress, workouts and cycle around ten years ago to feel a sense of control over my biology. There wasn’t much in the way of sophisticated tracking apps back then, so I just relied on an excel sheet and having the accountability with myself to make the time to do manual entry every day. Not exactly ideal for the long term!
Luckily, tracking is becoming easier than ever with many apps to choose from, most of them free to download. But sometimes ‘free’ still comes at a price, and many users around the world are being confronted with the reality of their information being sold without their knowledge. Maybe you feel like apps taking your information is fair game if it’s free to use, but many are left feeling violated as a result when ultra sensitive or specific information is sold to companies without being first anonymized.
If you are female and using a period tracking app, the companies have insights to your hormonal fluctuations, romantic life, feelings and stressors and this information can be used to sell to you throughout the month by platforms like Facebook and third-party spammers. To many, this feels like a kind of betrayal when you have been faithfully tracking every change in your body. Now, I am not advising that you stop tracking just because this is happening, I am recommending you be conscious of who you report your data to, and I will help you understand how to navigate the privacy world so you can continue to empower yourself and understand what is working for you and your body. Here are some tips to avoid your data being sold without your consent, and how eTreatAcne is different.
Anonymized Data vs. Personalized Data
Anonymized Data: The process of sanitizing information so that any personal identifying factors are removed with the intent of privacy protection. This information is usually collected as aggregated data that can be sold to inform better treatment decisions, research and insight into specific populations. While it can also be sold to companies for marketing purposes, the information provided to the company is general and does not provide private information that could be revealing about the individual. The data is on a large scale and is presented as statistical insights.
Personalized Data: This is information that you enter in its raw form and is connected to your identity. Not only can it be information that you have recorded, but it can be your name, email and other information associated with your account.
What eTreatAcne does with your information:
Your information will always be protected, and will not be used, sold or distributed to third parties with any identifying factors. We use aggregate data from many users to help inform our features, partners and fuel research. We also follow Medical Regulatory requirements because our applications are registered as medical devices by Health Canada and the FDA. We are HIPAA and PIPEDA compliant, which means that our level of data security for our customers is encrypted and confidential. I will break that down a bit more below:
Let’s get technical:
- We use data encryption and intrusion protection when you upload any information to our server. The transfer and storage of that information meets FDA cybersecurity requirements, and the servers themselves are high security “bare metal”. We do not share servers like most apps do.
- We have high security agreements with the company that hosts and manages our servers as well as internal protocols, security policies and controls for how data is stored, used and who can access it. On top of these features, we are audited every year to ensure we meet international registration standards.
Why does this matter?
Analogy time! Using an app that does not guarantee your privacy is like going to the store and buying a packaged item that does not clearly list the ingredients, does not tell you where the product is from or contain any nutritional information. Using an app or platform that makes your privacy a priority and abides by quality systems to protect your information is like buying a product with locally sourced ingredients, that is organic and clearly lays out the contents of the package and nutritional information. Which of these would you buy? Data is becoming a new way consumers have to be savvy, so be discerning about how and who you share your information with, much like you would be conscious about how you spend your money on products at the store.
If you want to protect your privacy and your data, there are a few things you can look for when determining the right tracking app for you. (Without reading the terms of service every single time)
- Look for companies that are upfront about their privacy policies and are transparent about what their plans are with your information.
- Even if you pay for an app, it does not mean you information or privacy is protected! Ensure you either do your research or are comfortable with the type of information you are recording on the platform. Alternatively, choose to only pay for platforms that are clear about how they treat your personal information and privacy.
- If the company does not follow regulatory requirements then think twice about sharing personal information. One alternative suggestion is looking for apps that do not require you to have an account or login to use their features.
- Being a savvy consumer is becoming more than how you spend money in a retail or eCommerce environment. Many of the tools we use to improve our lives are provided through apps or SaaS. Be mindful of the types of companies you support and if you are against your information being shared, support companies that take extra steps to ensure your privacy and identity are protected.
Let us know your thoughts.