Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Privacy questions around my health data

Are we moving to a world where not sharing our data becomes a matter of suspicion? (and higher premiums!)
  • For the last year or two I've been using RunKeeper to keep track of my runs. 
  • I've got a couple of years' use True Weight celebrating my healthy BMI because it's easier than graphing weight loss manually. 
  • And I've recently started to use Fitbit which records - in near real time - the number of steps I take, and when, with a pedometer. If I choose, I can record what I eat and drink. And it's oh-so-tempting to add a WiFi-connected scale (like the Aria from Fitbit or  Withings) so that my weight is logged in the app with no effort.
  • If I had an appropriate health issue I could add a blood pressure, heart rate or glucose monitor, etc.
But I know that the Terms and Conditions I have to sign up to use most of these services allows the provider of the app to sell and share my data with advertisers and insurers. Is that OK? And what happens to my data in future if one of the companies I'm using gets bought by another?

At the moment it doesn't affect me: I've not noticed any changes in the advertising I receive; and there are no changes to my insurance premiums. But will I regret the loss of control that I'm giving up in return for cool features and convenience?

As The Guardian points out today (based on a study for the Financial Times) these apps are increasingly useful when they're connected. For example, it's great to have my info shared between RunKeeper and Fitbit so that I've got one place to go to get an overview. But who else gets to see it? And how can I get the benefits of using the new tech without giving up all sense of privacy? I have no health issues that would affect my insurance ratings; but others are not so lucky. And are we moving to a world where not tracking and sharing this data becomes a matter of suspicion? (and higher premiums!)

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