Report: Health Wearable Devices in the Big Data Era

wearable-iot

Researchers at American University and the Center for Digital Democracy have today released a report on wearable eHealth devices, which represent a rapidly-growing IoT sector.

Titled Health Wearable Devices in the Big Data Era: Ensuring Privacy, Security & Consumer Protection (download PDF here), the 122 pages cover privacy and security threats, the Big Data marketplace, predictive/targeting methods, the legal and regulatory environment, and an extensive section on promoting ethical data practices. The intro to the report states:

The report documents a number of current digital health marketing practices that threaten the privacy of consumer health information, including condition targeting, look-alike modeling, predictive analytics, scoring, and the real-time buying and selling of individual consumers.

The potential range of intensely personal data obtainable from wearable (not to mention implantable) devices is what makes them such a potent marketing tool:

An emerging set of techniques will be designed to harness the unique capabilities of wearables—such as biosensors that track bodily functions, and “haptic technology” that enables users to “feel” actual body sensations. Pharmaceutical companies are poised to be among the major beneficiaries of wearable marketing. (p.4)

Recognizing the cost-saving and preventative benefits of eHealth devices, the report calls urgently for “meaningful, effective and enforceable safeguards” at the foundations of the connected-health system. Regulation in the U.S. is currently “weak and fragmented,” it notes, and is totally unprepared for sophisticated technologies capable of “unprecedented” data collection.