The following comment on a MobiHealthNews article got me thinking:
“What I find shocking and disturbing is that the FDA seems interested in regulating the iphone in ways it had never contemplated regulating laptops and PCs when the iphone is doing nothing more than these other devices do. We need a three screens approach that ensures consistency across all three screens” ChrisWasden
I find this interesting because whilst I agree there needs to be consistency doesn’t the fact that the sleeping giant (FDA) has started to get so interested validate that there is so much more power in mHealth over and above eHealth?
I’m glad that the FDA is more concerned about mobiles than PCs. Not only did passwords and home security protect our PC’s but the facts that mobiles are always on and always carried brings countless new and unforeseen possibilities where we need to be concerned about things that the phone can reveal about patients without them doing anything with it.
Some really obvious examples of this are being created by mobile advertising networks (eg. Quattro Wireless – which was recently bought by Apple) that can now share with advertisers the “where and when” with which users visit online destinations AND real world locations. The big problem that I see with this is that this data may allude personally sensitive information about users that advertisers may then use to “target users” without their full knowledge.
To illustrate the point I’m trying to make here are 5 examples of places/times that a customer may not want anyone to know about yet which may be very interesting to Drug/Medical Device marketers:
> A visit to an abortion clinic where the phone was switched off for a period of time
> 2 visits to a private STD Clinic
> Regular visits to a Psychiatrist’s office where the phone is switched to silent for a period of time
> Regular visits to a HIV treatment centre
> Regular (unusual hour) visits to a location that is known as a place where illegal drugs are sold
To capture the customer data the advertiser simply needs to present a compelling “you’ve won, fill in your information for us to post you your prize/free sample” style of advert:
If the offer is relevant enough these campaign inbox’s will quickly fill with the data of individuals who have location data profiles matching one of the above location/time variables (made possible by the ever more capable “laser-targeted/dynamic targeting platforms” that the advertising networks boast of). Making it possible for unregulated advertisers to easily generate lists of names/details of people that have a high likelihood to have had an abortion, been treated for a STD, are being treated for mental health, are HIV+, buy illegal drugs etc. This is something that the FDA most definitely needs to be concerned about.
The value of this data is not lost on marketers looking to SELL Contraceptives, Condoms, Therapy, Medications, Drugs Online. Nor will it be lost on health insurers or amongst criminal fraternities looking to extort money from vulnerable patients.
I think the conclusion is obvious: Advertisers never developed this ability to snoop into our lives on the PC or Laptop, with our unshared mobiles we’re seeing online privacy settings being reduced to an all time low and whilst this will make it possible for companies (like Apple, Nokia, Vodafone, Google) to offer us better services it may also enable third parties to gather information about us without us actually having to do anything but just carrying our mobiles.
The FDA had better get this right!