Is wearable IoT really necessary–and dangerous to your privacy?

click to enlargeBut does the average person even care? This Editor senses a groundswell of concern among HIT and health tech regarding the highly touted Internet of Things (IoT) and the dangers it might present. Our previous article reviewed the possibilities of hacking, system vulnerabilities in IoT networks and software bugs ‘bricking’ everyday objects such as refrigerators and cars. But what about wearables and the unimaginable amount of data they generate? Is it as unidentifiable as wearables makers claim? Columbia University computer science student Matthew Piccolella focuses in his article on healthcare ‘things’, primarily fitness trackers like Editor Charles’ favorite, Jawbone, but also clothing and even headsets that measure brain waves (Imec). Their volumes of data are changing the definition of healthcare privacy, which in the US has been synonymous with HIPAA. The problem is that health metadata are increasingly identifiable in a ‘big data’ world. Even the desire of 80 percent to keep personal data private is easily ‘breached’ by the offer of a discount or other goodie as an incentive to permit the sale of or ‘sharing’ of personal data with third parties (Accenture, 2014). Even more surprisingly, a NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll found that only 16 percent of people have data privacy concerns with their insurers, and an even smaller 10 percent have concerns with their employers. This article argues for the updating of PHI standards to include fitness metadata and to secure it. Somehow, this Editor doesn’t believe it will be a priority for this Congress even with Mr Picolella’s well-argued concerns. Privacy Concerns with Medical Wearables and the Internet of ThingsAssessing America’s medical data policies in a connected age (

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