Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commissioner Julie Brill has voiced concerns about the way consumer apps collect and use health data. She raised the issue during a round-table discussion at The Hill’s Tech in Policy event in Washington DC this week. Brill remarked that the collection and use of data ought to be considered tantamount, and the collection of health data in particular needs to be regulated and restricted.

“There have been incredible developments in mobile technology that help students learn and improve health outcomes,” Reed said in a statement. “We need a regulatory environment that encourages innovation while protecting consumers in areas that make a real difference in our lives.”

She referred to the oft-cited case of Target, who are able to predict the pregnancies of their female customers using big data, and then present them with personalised ads for pre-natal and post-natal products. One woman’s family discovered her pregnancy through the targeted ads on her computer.

Brill is leading the FTC’s efforts to evaluate- and if necessary, regulate- consumer privacy in healthcare and technology. Healthcare data privacy as covered in HIPAA is not the FTC’s usual remit, but they are ready to intervene if they determine health app developers aren’t being transparent with consumers about their data is being collected and used. Brill raised the concern that the new & innovative methods used in data capture and transformation pose a serious compliancy challenge to health laws established in the twentieth century, when such technology didn’t exist.

If the FTC does clamp down on health data collection, it prove a serious obstacle to companies innovating in this field. But, it could improve the transparency and security of data for end-users, too.

Read more here.
(Image credit: NYU)

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