Health Care Technology Raises Additional Privacy Issues
The report warns health data shared on a social networking site can become a “digital tattoo” for a consumer, and it is almost impossible to remove.The proliferation of fitness devices like the Fitbit, health monitoring applications and advancements in social media and mobile device technology provide new opportunities for health care providers, but also raise some pertinent privacy issues, according to a report from the California HealthCare Foundation. The author of the report, health economist and consultant Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, concludes the proliferation of extremely large databases of health information challenge regulators' and society's ability to ensure individuals' data rights and privacy. For example, while personal health information held by health care providers and insurers is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), many other sources of consumer data are not covered and can be disclosed to third parties. The report notes user-generated data that could be used in health profiling are held by gyms, Websites, banks, credit card companies, cosmetic medicine groups, fitness clubs, home testing labs, massage therapists, nutrition counselors, alternative medicine practitioners, disease advocacy groups, and marketers of non-prescription health products and foods.
Another form of consumer-generated data is personal check-ins on social networks. So far, the growth and adoption of sites like Facebook, Foursquare and others have outpaced public policies designed to protect the privacy of consumers.