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Privacy Tip #204 – Has Your Doctor (or other Professional) Downloaded Apps With Microphone Access?

I have the great pleasure to present annually to doctors who are in their fellowship (which means they are post-med school and continuing their training in a particular specialty) about lawyerly things before they go out into the real world. I have been doing it for years for an old friend of mine who is their attending physician. I love being with these bright, young and very talented individuals who are eager to help people with their medical problems, and they like getting to ask questions of a lawyer for free.

Since I am focused on data privacy and security, during my presentation this year I spoke to them about the use of their personal phones during treatment sessions with patients. As I always do when talking to people about their phones, I asked them to go into their privacy settings and into the microphone section and see how many apps they have downloaded that asked permission to access the microphone. How many green dots are there? Almost all of them looked up at me with wide eyes and their lips formed a big “O.”

Yes, I said, these apps have access to everything you are saying, including with your patients. They immediately clicked them all off, and we continued to chat about what this means in their profession.

I am not picking on them—I do the same thing with lawyers, financial advisors and CPAs, and any other professional that has access to sensitive information.

When a professional downloads an app that allows access to the microphone, all of the conversations that you believe are private and confidential are now not private and confidential if that phone is in the room with you.

It is rare for individuals to understand that when these apps are downloaded the company has full access to everything happening while the phone is on. Professionals, including doctors, need to understand the implications of taking their phones into treatment rooms if they have downloaded apps that allow full access to the microphone on the phone. Those apps’ access should be turned off, or the phone itself should be turned off, during treatment sessions.

Not only because I am on a one-woman bandwagon trying to get people to better understand the capabilities of their phones, but also so that I can assure that my conversations with my doctor and other professional advisors are private and confidential, I specifically ask them to turn off their phones or app access to the microphone while I am meeting with them. This is for my privacy–but is also a teaching moment so professionals understand the issue.

Copyright © 2019 Robinson & Cole LLP. All rights reserved.

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About this Author

Linn F. Freedman, Robinson Cole Law Firm, Cybersecurity and Litigation Law Attorney, Providence
Partner

Linn Freedman practices in data privacy and security law, cybersecurity, and complex litigation. She provides guidance on data privacy and cybersecurity compliance to a full range of public and private clients across all industries, such as construction, education, health care, insurance, manufacturing, real estate, utilities and critical infrastructure, marine, and charitable organizations. Linn is a member of the firm's Business Litigation Group and chairs its Data Privacy + Cybersecurity Team. She is also a member of the Financial Services Cyber-Compliance Team (CyFi ...

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