The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal agency whose mission is to protect consumers from misleading or false advertising, filed a lawsuit and reached a settlement with the marketers of two smartphone apps who claimed that their apps could calculate the risk of a mole being a melanoma. According to the FTC, that's akin to offering medical advice. According to the FTC, the companies cannot offer medical advice "unless the representation is truthful, not misleading, and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence in the form of human clinical testing" of the device.

This raises an interesting question. Who (which government agency) is responsible for oversight of cellphone apps that appear to cross the line by offering medical advice? Are cellphone apps communication devices that should be regulated by the FTC (as was done in this case), or in a health-related context should they be called medical devices, and therefore regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? At the moment no federal regulatory agency is clearly responsible, and so the first apps have gone largely unregulated. Until the FTC stepped in, that is.

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