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Healthcare wearables foster lack of privacy, study says

Alexandra GHEORGHE

December 16, 2016

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Healthcare wearables foster lack of privacy, study says

Wearables collect a vast amount of personal information without privacy restrictions, according to a new study.

Americans now face a growing loss of their most sensitive information, as their health data are collected and analyzed on a continuous basis, combined with information about their finances, ethnicity, location, and online and off-line behaviors,” the report says. “Policy makers must act decisively to protect consumers in today’s big data era.”

With the healthcare tech market in full bloom, advertising agencies and data targeting companies are actively exploring the capabilities of IoT gadgets on behalf of their clients, trying to connect medical data with demographics and other sensitive information.

“With consumer health and wellness data merged into profiles alongside other information, marketers now possess the ability to track and reach individuals anytime and anywhere,” the paper reads.

The problem is that existing health privacy laws, in this case HIPAA, don’t apply to wearable makers, and it is generally “limited and fragmented” to hospitals and healthcare institutions.

Privacy advocates call for new standards to be applied to collecting big data and urge companies to be more transparent about the use of data. The US also should consider a new data-protection authority to replace the country’s fragmented privacy protections, the study says.

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