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Objectives: To investigate whether and what user data are collected by health related mobile applications (mHealth apps), to characterise the privacy conduct of all the available mHealth apps on Google Play, and to gauge the associated risks to privacy.

Main outcome measures: Primary outcomes were characterisation of the data collection operations in the apps code and of the data transmissions in the apps traffic; analysis of the primary recipients for each type of user data; presence of adverts and trackers in the app traffic; audit of the app privacy policy and compliance of the privacy conduct with the policy; and analysis of complaints in negative app reviews.

Conclusions: This analysis found serious problems with privacy and inconsistent privacy practices in mHealth apps. Clinicians should be aware of these and articulate them to patients when determining the benefits and risks of mHealth apps.

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