The relationship between privacy and mobile applications is coming into focus. On February 27, 2012, the California Attorney General entered into a Joint Statement of Principles with the six largest mobile application companies – Apple, Google, H-P, Microsoft, Amazon and RIM – regarding consumer privacy and transparency issues when data is collected through an app. http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/press/pdfs/n2647_agreement.pdf. The Five Principles set parameters for good practice. Although not legally binding, the AG promises to review compliance in the fall, and may use California laws on privacy, false advertising, unfair business practices and others as enforcement tools. Since California often leads the way in privacy enforcement it is likely that other states will follow suit.
We live in the data age where every day a new technology is announced in business- and consumer-oriented ecommerce and mobile health (mhealth). In response, in recent years, federal and state legislators have enacted strict data privacy and security laws, such as HIPAA, COPPA, and Gramm-Leach-Bliley, to protect data whether in electronic (IT) or physical form. This data is known as protected health information under HIPAA and personally identifiable information under other statutes. New federal and state laws also mandate comprehensive data breach responses, including notifications to individuals whose PHI or PII was breached and some agencies and state attorneys general. The shared premise behind these laws is that the public expects the highest standard of data protection from businesses and government. (Whether or not this is true – after all we regularly give our credit card numbers to anonymous persons over the phone – is a subject for another day…)
‘Mobile health’ (mHealth), which is defined loosely as health care delivered wirelessly, is set to transform health care. A perfect example is the Ford Motor Company’s ‘Car That Cares,’ which it announced at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. The car’s in-vehicle health monitoring system was developed through a collaboration with Microsoft, BlueMetal Architects, and Healthrageous and is designed to support passengers’ personal health and disease management programs. The vehicle’s dashboard is equipped to collect real time biometric and other data, along with voice inputs, to help the passenger comply with his or her health and wellness program through digital coaching (“How much did you eat for breakfast? Did you take your pills?”). The system can also wirelessly connect to other health-related smartphone apps and portable medical devices such as a car seat that measures blood pressure, to alert the passenger to health changes. These apps and devices can then connect to the passenger’s health care provider and electronic health record. The Car That Cares is still in the research phase, giving the public and the regulators time to catch up with this new concept.