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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    Ad Age: Privacy Concerns Will Be Issue as Consumers Turn to Health-Care Technology

    Ad Age takes a look at issues connected with the privacy and security of individuals’ medical data as patients and doctors are increasingly using technology to track individuals’ health information:

    But the convergence of internet technology and medicine is already very much here, both in reality and in the popular imagination. We saw many examples of it at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and we’ll see even more as 2013 progresses. [...]

    This kind of merger between health and technology seems promising to almost a fifth of the population, according to the Truth About Wellness survey conducted by McCann Truth Central. Our study found 18% of people said that they would like to insert a microchip inside their body to continually measure their health, and more than 1 in 10 said they would like to replace a particular part of their body with machinery.

    But our research also revealed that consumers are grappling with a familiar question: Does the impressive utility technology is bringing into their lives outweigh the nagging fears and worries about whether they are losing something else along the way? For example, privacy, the attention of their children, their ability to switch off? [...]

    The sheer omnipresence of sensors is about to create an explosion in the health data available. In fact, our smartphones could start to know more about our individual health than we do. PSFK recently reported that mobile startup Ginger.io is developing an application that uses smartphone data in a way that helps people with conditions including heart disease and diabetes. The app runs quietly on the patient’s smartphone and captures a variety of data points including things like location and calling habits. That information is relayed to medical professionals, and an uncharacteristic change in behavior (lack of movement or reduction in calling behavior) could indicate to the doctor that the patient needs help. Simply put, your doctor (and your phone) might recognize that you’re sick before you do.

    But with this rise of tracking sensors, the implications for privacy are significant. Anything connected to the internet is at risk of being hacked. We saw that medical data is the second-most sensitive type of data for consumers (behind financial data). Whereas 71% of consumers are willing to share their shopping data, only 27% are willing to share their medical data.

    Earlier in 2012 there were several incidents that hinted at the security risks associated with the mass digitization of large amounts of medical data. European hackers broke into the database for the Utah Department of Health and got their hands on the medical records of hundreds of thousands of patients. A serious medical-data breach can have many consequences, from blackmail to implications for medical-insurance premiums and identity theft.

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