How Much The Big Tech Should Data Know About Our Personal Health And History?
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Big tech-and-white more and more these days about their health. You Facebook take, was the Roll-out of a new health-tab connect you to doctors, reminding you of your annual physical. Or take Google, announced this month is the acquisition of a Fitbit. So, how much influence do we have? How much control we have over how much of our personal health data ends up in the hands of the tech giants? It’s All Tech Considered.
(SOUNDBITE OF ULRICH SCHNAUSS’ “NOTHING HAPPENS IN JUNE”)
KELLY: I’m a member of Ben Moskowitz. He is the Director of the Consumer Reports’ Digital Lab. Hi, Ben.
BEN MOSKOWITZ: hi.
KELLY: So, I mentioned Facebook. I mentioned Google. They give us a glimpse of the landscape. What other company can have access in this particular slice of my life these days?
MOSKOWITZ: Five of the top six companies by market-cap tech companies. So we’re talking about Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon. And, you know, you need to continue to grow. And so, if you are looking in the market, where it is great to have a huge potential for growth? It is the health care.
KELLY: And what is the impact of this? We begin with the examples that I just listed. Google purchase of Fitbit, for example, that I should not mention to know for those of us connected to our fitbit’s, it’s how many steps we go. It knows how many hours we sleep. It knows, for women, when we are getting our times, and so on. What are the pros and know the cons of the Google, these things about us?
MOSKOWITZ: Well, from the Google perspective, you know, you want to create a product ecosystem that makes life easier for people, especially in terms of the functionality of these products. You know, in a certain light, the more data that can be collected about a person, the more valuable the insight about the person, which can be sold to advertisers.
KELLY: So, the bottom line is that you want to collect this data, so that you can sell it.
MOSKOWITZ: That’s right.
KELLY: summarize for me – so, what is the disadvantage? In my view, if all my data is in my Apple Watch, or my now about Google, Fitbit, or whatever it is, what is the danger?
MOSKOWITZ: you don’t want people to know everything about you, the same way, if you go out in public, they wear clothes or present them in a certain way. Another harm is manipulation. So, in summary here, you know, Google is a supercomputer. And if it is, imagine a supercomputer that knows everything about who you are and how you think and what you want, that supercomputer targeted to you-and to know, you know, to go a certain time of the day, this is the nature of the remedies, the law of the country.
KELLY: What is – I think this is the form that I’m going to go every time to the doctor – the HIPAA privacy rule, regulate, allegedly, things like that, that’s exactly what I thought. How much of my personal medical data is shared between companies and vendors? This also applies when I download some of the fitness tracker on my phone?
MOSKOWITZ: no, it does not. And that’s exactly is the Problem that if you were in a hospital and to create a patient file, you would be governed under HIPAA, and so on have strict restrictions on what they could do with this data. If you would not download a random app from the App Store, the Google Play Store, then. And you could read, you know, you could say – you could claim to be HIPAA compliant, but unless you, the privacy policies of super reading closely, you know, you might not realize that the release for all kinds of purposes.
KELLY: I’m looking forward to it on many apps that I download, I select the free version, but there is a version that I could pay for it. I need more privacy when I have to pay for that? In other words, we started to think about the medical privacy, since this expensive add-on that I need to pay?
KELLY: Have we reached a turning point, though, do you think, where we have to rely on all of the technology and gadgets that we are willing to trade away a lot of privacy for the convenience that they offer, whether it’s health care or anything else?
MOSKOWITZ: What we do know is that Americans really care about privacy. You feel like you don’t have control over your personal information. In fact, only 9% of the people in a National representative survey believed that they had a lot of control over the information. But the vast majority, though, think it is very important to be in control of the information – 74%.
KELLY: Yes, we care, but we feel powerless.
MOSKOWITZ: That’s right. This is the reason why I think it is a collective action problem. Many companies now go out of their way to advertise and to say, we will give you granular control of privacy. And this is certainly a step in the right direction, but that is not going to solve the problem, because not every company will be aboveboard in this way. And so it is he asks of us, you know, the demand – it’s good to first define, then the privacy demand laws, that we think, you know, we deserve in this country.
KELLY: I suppose the other collective measures that could be taken is just swearing out of your Fitbit or Apple Watch or whatever it is, and not entering all of your data, do it the old-fashioned way.
MOSKOWITZ: I don’t think that is the correct answer, to say, let’s just become Luddites and not this stuff. You know, we need to demand rules, so that we can get the advantages of the modern digital world, and not to sacrifice our privacy.
KELLY: Ben Moskowitz, thank you.
MOSKOWITZ: Thank you.
KELLY: He is the Director of the Consumer Reports’ Digital Lab. And we should note that Facebook and Google are among NPR’s financial supporters.
(SOUNDBITE OF GRACE JONES SONG “PRIVATE LIFE”)
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., a NPR the contractor and produced using a private transcription developed with NPR. This text may not be updated in its final form and may be or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio recording.
Released on Mon, 25 Nov 2019 22:39:00 +0000