Mozilla says that some mental health and prayer apps have serious privacy issues

May 3, 2022

Mozilla has released a report after analyzing various mental health apps and prayer apps. The results aren't nice, these apps are spying on users and selling personal data to third parties.

Mozilla says that mental health and prayer apps have serious privacy issues

The research conducted by the Mozilla Foundation scrutinized 32 apps in order to find out what kind of privacy policies they practice. Shockingly, 28 of these apps were given the "Privacy Not Included" warning label.

Worst offenders in Mozilla's - Privacy Not Included

  • Better Help
  • Better Stop Suicide
  • Woebot
  • Youper
  • Talkspace

According to the report, the first two apps have vague and messy privacy policies, the next three in the list share personal data with third parties, while the last one collects chat transcripts from users. That is creepy, isn't it?

The security practices of the apps were also found to be abysmal, and allowed weak passwords such as 1 or 11111111. Imagine having a single letter or number as a password as the lock for an app that contains your personal data, that is a privacy nightmare. It gets worse. The researchers at Mozilla term these mental health apps as a data harvesting bonanza. The report reveals that some apps tracked users, harvested data from their Facebook profile, and the users' phones. The collected data is then sold to insurance companies and data brokers, for a profit. Mozilla warns that information that kids and teenagers share using such apps could be used for marketing, or target them with personalized ads.

List of apps with the Privacy Not Included warning

  • 7 Cups
  • Abide
  • Bearable
  • Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame
  • Calm
  • Hallow
  • Happify
  • King James Bible - Daily Verse and Audio
  • Liberate
  • Mindshift CBT
  • MindDoc
  • Modern Health
  • Moodfit
  • NOCD
  • Pride Counseling
  • Recovery Record: Eating Disorder Management
  • Sanity & Self
  • Sanvello
  • Shine
  • Superbetter
  • The Mighty

In my eyes, these are practically malware. If you use one of these apps, check if you can delete your account with the service, and then uninstall the app. Look for offline and/or open source alternatives for mental health and prayer apps. I recommend Android users to take a look at the F-droid repository, there is a good chance that you may find an app similar to the one you were using. All apps listed on the repository are open source, and many of them are also available on the Google Play Store.

The trustworthy apps

  • PTSD Coach
  • Wysa

There were just two apps in the entire list that Mozilla says are trustworthy, PTSD Coach, made by the U.S. The Department of Veterans Affairs, and Wysa, an AI Chatbot. The report says that both apps respect the privacy of users.

The other two apps without the warning label are Glorify, and Headspace, though Mozilla hasn't given them the clean chit. You can check the list of the apps tested by Mozilla on the Privacy Not Included website. Click on the app's name to view a detailed description of the privacy practices, and permissions used by the app such as camera, location, microphone access, etc.

You're probably thinking, this whole ordeal is not really surprising. We live in a world where every big tech company is spying on us through apps, search queries and general internet usage. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and the others probably know everything about you already. I agree, but is that any reason to just give up your privacy rights?

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Even a small dose of positivity could save a depressed person's life. It's perfectly normal for people who are recovering from Anxiety, PTSD or domestic violence to seek help via therapy and/or support from family and friends. It's not hard to see why having an app that you can access from your phone could help someone stay motivated, especially if therapists are far away or are too expensive.

But when these Mental Health apps that the user relied on for helping them get on with life, exploit the user and sell their medical history and other data to third-parties, it is truly disgusting. It is hard enough for these folk to face the challenges of daily life, yet these soulless companies are preying on the weak, just to line their pockets, with no regard for privacy.

Mozilla says mental health and prayer apps have serious privacy issues
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Mozilla says mental health and prayer apps have serious privacy issues
Mozilla says these mental health and prayer apps are tracking users, harvesting personal data and selling them to third-parties.
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  1. dmacleo said on May 4, 2022 at 5:04 pm

    as someone who was affected by both VA and DOD hacks I’ll not trust anyone or anything.

  2. Lad Zappalin said on May 4, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    Not surprising.
    Nothing wrong with seeking help about anything, including prayer or mental conditions, whatever your beliefs or religion. The fact is though—there has always been an element of human beings that is bad-intentioned, ‘evil’-intentioned, criminal, etc. Heinous but this includes preying on those who pray or the mental states of others. That’s how a nice little old lady can have her life savings robbed from her…those doing it have no conscience, ethics, morals, values.
    Doesn’t help to mock those seeking help, or say ‘it serves them right’ etc.
    Jump on those preying on them.
    Sheesh. This isn’t rocket science.

  3. Toto said on May 4, 2022 at 9:51 am

    -1 Alex:
    You are a fool to pray using some kind of robot or program…
    “People who are suffering and need help need human relationships, listening and help, not automatic or random phrases delivered by an application without soul, nor understanding.

  4. Peterc said on May 4, 2022 at 4:13 am

    I’d be curious to know whether the mental-health apps in question fall under HIPAA and HITECH, the only privacy laws in the United States with any teeth. And if they do, I’d be even *more* curious to know to what extent the federal courts, now dominated by the Federalist Society, would enforce those laws. (More vigorously than antitrust law, consumer-protection law, and the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments, I’d hope.)

  5. Trey said on May 4, 2022 at 1:24 am

    So are these Android apps on the Google Play store or Apple? I can’t even tell. Why is Mozilla analyzing apps anyway? Besides, why stop with mental health and prayer apps?

  6. John G. said on May 3, 2022 at 11:06 pm

    Android should learn by itself how to detect these security issues to stop them. Thanks for the article! :]

  7. Q said on May 3, 2022 at 9:29 pm

    From reading this article by Ashwin, I note that it is not clear whether the analyzed apps are for particular platforms or operating systems. The reasonable presumption would be that the Mozilla analysis and examination was not platform or operating system specific and may span multiple platforms and operating systems. Ashwin, please clarify if this issue.

    I also note my own experience about examining various apps years ago from United States of America health insurance companies or their benefit management companies. I did discover that at least some of the apps did have significant third-party analytics threats to the end user.

  8. Tom Hawack said on May 3, 2022 at 8:39 pm

    Mental health is maybe not ambiguous as such but perhaps some of us understand it as mental improvement as well. If those who truly suffer mentally are legion, deserve respect and help *free of charge*, unfortunately there is also a rising quest for super-brains, super-minds, augmented brain capacities. It is mostly cynical to take advantage of the vulnerable but quite funny to make a buck or two out of people spending their time and money to improve their brains. Overall such apps call upon both, don’t care if the buyer is schizophrenic or a brain sportsman. Such business, that which applies to augment the mental, not to cure it, has been around for decades, long before a digital transcript. I don’t think you improve your brains with science, I think you improve it with nourished dialogs, debates, a lot of thinking especially around ideas we naturally disagree with, reading, introspection and, last but not least, an active humanism : intelligence and compassion are the two aspects of a same reality and certainly not antagonist.

    1. Sara said on May 4, 2022 at 9:13 am

      God only accept prayers from open source applications that respect your freedom.

      1. Tom Hawack said on May 4, 2022 at 12:25 pm

        @Sara, I don’t know, God never told me and I wouldn’t dare make Him speak my beliefs.
        I’d rather ask myself if there’s anything else required than sincerity and humbleness to pray.
        I do know that if mediums use tools such as the crystal ball it is as a psychical support. Would a psychical support be of any help for an an enhanced praying capacity? I can imagine the advertisement : “Buy now ‘Super Pray’ and pray like a saint. Direct connection with God. Money back guaranteed”. I don’t think so, even free of charge. By the way, I wonder if humor is specific to humans. Do they laugh up there? LOL.

      2. Tom Hawack said on May 4, 2022 at 12:38 pm

        Speaking of humor, I just remembered that I had proposed twelve years ago a “Les anges ont-ils de l’humour ?” (“Do angels have a sense of humor?”) to academics offering their service at the Public Library of Lyon (France). The context is in French, the answer was most interesting : [] for whom may be interested …

        Back to apps :=)

  9. Anonymous said on May 3, 2022 at 7:25 pm

    Tom S have you always been a Scientologist?

  10. Mike said on May 3, 2022 at 4:54 pm

    No one should be surprised by this. Here in the USA, the only thing society enjoys more than stigmatizing people with mental health issues, is financially exploiting them.

    1. Tom S said on May 3, 2022 at 7:01 pm

      Give proof or don’t make stuff up.
      Also, maybe the reason more and more ‘mental issues’ increase is because the pharma industry who has poisoned people’s mind and body, all the technology that has destroyed people’s humanism little by little.
      Maybe you should worry about that instead of worry who really cares or not about mental issues, you fight the cause not the people who don’t care about it.
      When anti-depressants which are given to people like candies in Halloween make people want to suicide and in 2022 that practice is still going on by ‘doctors’ because the power of an industry that actually profits on people’s diseases and sickness not in their health, there is a big problem, so why don’t you talk about it?
      Many of the ‘mental health issues’ are a bunch of BS that is meant to make people fall in the trap of the pharma industry and then the REAL issues appear. But many issues are just imaginary suggestive mind control stuff because they know humans tend to be hypochondriacs, so their attack the mind because the mind can affect the body.

      No body should be surprised of what anyway? I mean when you go to a hospital in USA and they put you in their database, where do you think that information goes to? listen to someone like Rob Braxman who said that he worked on that stuff and he was disgusted about how the information was meant to be sold, plus pharma industry and their poison ‘modern medicines’ with million short and long term side effects. What do you think would happen in apps from technology that have destroyed even more people’s minds and bodies?

      Again, you are focusing on the wrong ‘enemy’. There are many to blame for the fake and the real mental health issues, but it is not people who don’t care about it or try to pretend it can be a bigger deal for them only because it is supposedly a big deal for you and you hate people who don’t think like you do. I wonder if you are all talk and no action or you really try to help or do something about mental health in the world, because not doing anything is just doing the same thing as someone who doesn’t care much about it, just sayin’.

  11. Pet said on May 3, 2022 at 4:09 pm

    Is there a chance that any app with the word PRAYER don’t have “issues”?
    Pray and logic don’t go together.

    And how about someone seeking solution about his mental issues in an application or the internet in general. Deservers all the “security” issues he can get.

    Lol this world.

    1. ryuk said on May 4, 2022 at 12:16 pm

      + 10^10^100 Alex

    2. Alex said on May 3, 2022 at 8:13 pm

      And who said that “Prayer and logic” need to go together?
      People like you are the worst. Instead of realizing that there are people that hurt and need help and do it any way they can, you mock them.
      “Lol this world” indeed. Especially with people like you that think human beings are some sort of robots that are fed 0s and 1s and output 0s and 1s.
      What a disgrace.

      1. Sebas said on May 4, 2022 at 10:46 am

        +1000 Alex.

      2. Sara said on May 4, 2022 at 8:58 am

        -1000 Alex

      3. Cassette said on May 3, 2022 at 11:23 pm

        -1 Alex

      4. Lia said on May 4, 2022 at 3:45 am

        +1 Alex

      5. John G. said on May 3, 2022 at 11:05 pm

        @Alex +1 :]

      6. ShintoPlasm said on May 3, 2022 at 9:08 pm

        +1 Alex

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