Thursday, December 27, 2012

Watching figures

Thanks to FoIB Holly R, here's an interesting story about the confluence of medical tech and health care, with a dash of privacy and frugality thrown in:

"Those of us trying to lose some pounds after overindulging this holiday season can get help from a slew of smartphone apps that count steps climbed and calories burned ... technology lovers are testing homemade do-it-yourself devices on people eager to measure their mind and body."

Back in the day, pedometers were the go-to method for determining how far we'd walked on a given day, and (presumably) how many calories we'd burned by doing so. Now, their descendants are linked to GPS and other devices capable of tracking a slew of different metrics.

Which is all well and good, up to a point:

"[S]ome experts worry that the data collected could be used against users in the long run ... Two years ago, some users of a leading self-tracking brand, Fitbit, were logging their sexual activity as exercise and found the sex logs somehow popping up on Google searches."

Of course, anyone who still believes that we truly have any real privacy anymore (especially on-line) is sadly mistaken.

There's another facet to these new devices, as well:

"Chang raised $9 million for a new kind of tracker that he promises is "the world's first very accurate heart rate monitor on just a wrist watch — no chest strap, no other device" ... if the company turns a big profit ... it will be from selling the data aggregated on a smartphone app and analyzing it for you, the user."

After all, the raw data won't likely be of much help to most of us. But I can  foresee a metaphorical brick wall ahead: who, ultimately, will own that data?

Reason I ask is this:

"The small box inside Amanda Hubbard's chest beams all kinds of data about her faulty heart to the company that makes her defibrillator implant ... it apparently doesn't prohibit Medtronic from seeking to make a buck off that data."

It's possible, one supposes, that the User Agreements that come with the new apps will cover this, but how many of us actually read these?

Thought so.
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