Bloomberg Nursing Assistant Professors Lindsay Jibb (PI) and Quinn Grundy (co-investigator) received a New Frontiers in Research Exploration grant for their project “Children’s privacy and mobile health applications: An analysis of data sharing practices and impact”.
Children today are growing up in an immersive digital media culture, with nearly continuous interaction with mobile applications (apps). Children’s digital engagement has extended to the realm of health, where apps target a range of health promotion and disease management.
The data-sharing practices of these apps are largely unexplored, and commercial entities may be the recipients of the personal health information shared in the apps. For children, this has serious safety and privacy implications — data aggregators may identify child users and create digital health dossiers that may eventually have an impact on education or employment in adulthood.
Using a phased-approach that combines the disciplines of pediatric nursing, health policy, and computer science, the researchers aim to characterize the data sharing practices of child health apps and examine the advertising impact of transmitted data in three phases:
Phase 1: Rapid scoping review to identify apps endorsed by influential child health institutions and oversight bodies.
Phase 2: Review identified apps and those most downloaded from commercial stores, using novel software methods to electronically intercept and analyze data transmitted to external servers.
Phase 3: Using dummy profiles, the research team will conduct a systematic content analysis of targeted advertising presented to children within apps. The analyses will enable the characterization of data being transmitted by child health apps, the entities receiving the data, their data-sharing practices, and the resultant advertising (and potential health) impacts on children.
This research will provide a crucially needed picture of the privacy risks to children associated with health app use. Results will be shared with app developers, child health organizations, and policymakers to guide recommendations and education to children and families regarding digital privacy regulations.
Dr. Lindsay Jibb holds the Signy Hildur Eaton Chair in Pediatric Nursing Research at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto and a Certified Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurse. Dr. Jibb’s research program is broadly focused on enhancing quality of life and improving psychosocial care for children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer and their families. Major focuses within this area are:
- User-centered development and evaluation of digital health technologies for symptom management
- Interventions to empower and support the health of family caregivers of children with cancer
- Home-based childhood cancer care
- Child with cancer- and caregiver-oriented research priority identification and engagement in research
Dr. Quinn Grundy is an Honorary Senior Lecturer with the School of Pharmacy and Charles Perkins Centre at The University of Sydney. Dr. Grundy’s research explores the commercial determinants of health and their impact on the delivery of health services, health evidence, and consumer health information. Her research encompasses three main themes:
- The relationships between health professionals and medically-related industry
- Conflicts of interest and industry sponsorship within biomedical research
- Commercial influences in mobile health