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When Health Tech Companies Change Their Terms of Service

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When Health Tech Companies Change Their Terms of Service

Consumers may have limited control over their data


5 min read
4 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Health-related apps could be legally sharing your highly sensitive personal data without informing you.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Scientific
  • Applicable


Digital health-related websites and apps compile highly sensitive data about genetics, doctor visits and a person’s mental state. But by law, especially in the United States, companies can unilaterally change the way they collect and use such data with little or no notice. People currently have little recourse if a company violates their privacy in this way, but new legislation could be passed to amend how Terms of Service are handled. For now, consumers must carefully read those tedious ToS, and stay abreast of changes.


Many health-related websites and apps collect large amounts of intimate data, but are not considered health care providers.

All kinds of companies collect and use consumer data. Since many people don’t read the fine print, they may not realize that checking the “read the terms” box on health tech and biomedical websites and apps could put their privacy at risk.

Because of lax regulations, some companies on the fringes of traditional health care exploit that sense of trust in the name of profits. Some promise trustworthy results, backed by the latest scientific research.

Terms of Service (ToS) vary greatly from company to company, and users may be unaware of changes to them over time.

The purpose of ToS is to govern disputes over product value and quality. By buying and using a product, a person has agreed to...

About the Authors

Jessica L. Roberts, J.D., is a professor at the University of Houston College of Medicine, and director of its Health Law and Policy Institute. Jim W. Hawkins, MBA, PhD, is director of the Master’s in Biotechnology program at Georgetown University.

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