Look, it’s the obligatory reflective NY Eve post. Waltzing out the old while celebrating the new. Most tech life cycles are certainly less than a year now, but the same concept applies. I have had general technology woes myself for the last few days. Updating my OS should not cause major issues (especially since I purposely waited for close to two months before updating) but alas, of course there were problems. Spending Christmas Eve and NY Eve in the Apple store was not what I wanted to be doing. So now, I have shipped my issues away hoping that they can be fixed.
Coincidentally, while waiting for the geek gurus to tell me what I already knew about my own personal tech crisis, I ran across a great article in The Verge summarizing the technology year in review nicely. A year dominated by hacks and breaches and it seems we have all stopped caring. Another major breach? Who cares? More data mined and stolen? No big deal, right? It’s a great article in that it summarizes our initial rage at such actions that lead collectively…nowhere. And it is also true that the inevitable side effect of seeing and knowing more causes us as a society to no longer be shocked, but quite the opposite, we become bored by it. How blasé it all becomes. The article gamely tries to put a positive spin on the current state of how we view these incidents. Supposedly the more transparent everything is, the more accountable everyone is. From recent news events to how my own friends and family view these incidents makes me doubt it. It is almost as if there is information overload on how much is being taken from us (and now we can no longer have the excuse that we don’t know it is happening) and as a society we collectively shut down to the real world implications of what that can mean to us.
I don’t know, call me old fashioned, but I don’t relish the idea of living in a society someday where everyone’s medical records are publicly available or where we know everything about our neighbors. That led me to a second article (while patiently sitting at the Apple Genius bar today) that specifically addressed wearable mobile apps and data security. Even if we seem to not care about these things, it is someone’s job to try to ensure that information is private. Honestly, they most likely won’t succeed. But to be totally oblivious to trying is an irresponsible use of the emerging technology.
We have obviously reached the point where providers and payers both have had to plan for a day when wearable and smartphone app data become part of the standard dataflow. I would argue that day is already here. The real issue is how to mine and how to secure that data.
It is fairly common to assume (and online research and articles seem to back this up) that many health industry “silos” have weak cyber security protocols. Medical identity data is just as valuable as the card numbers and information stolen at Target. But even more than this, consider how difficult it will be to protect core medical devices such as MRIs, pacemakers etc. That is a very real vulnerability. The one thing that is certain is that the healthcare industry will need to work hard to protect their assets and to at least catch and patch the obvious holes. The author of the article seems to feel that if major data breaches in healthcare happen, it could create a crisis of confidence among mHealth stakeholders and slow the progress of those solutions.
I agree to an extent. The first major breach that compromises the enormity of data being mined by mHealth devices will send ripples. People will express their outrage. But to get back to the article in The Verge, I really do believe we will have initial rage, followed by…not much. We will eventually become bored by these incidents as well.
However, there is a kernel here that is important to remember. Your profile and your identity (YOUR data) is just about that. It is yours. If you don’t care who sees it, then true, it is no big deal to you. But there are many of us who realize that the data that is produced by and about me does matter. It is mine to hold and be responsible for, yet our dependence on technology and the wonders of how we use it today often take that choice away from us. If we can’t stop our personal information from leaving us and forever being known when we buy toilet paper at Target or a chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A, how on earth can we ever get back what my personal health record is now telling the world?
We have entered an age where data is king. We use it, we buy it, we sell it, and we market the heck out of it. But in our great rush to collect and amass, it seems Orwellian that we didn’t honestly take the time to think on how much we were willing to give up. Will it matter? Perhaps someday it will to everyone. I think however, as time goes on, those of us who care, and who feel that we objectively have the right to keep and share what we want to with our data will be outnumbered. But I guarantee, our data will continue to be collected and hacked and breached. Hopefully that will not come back to collectively negatively affect us in some dystopian way.
And that is the uplifting thought I am leaving 2014 with. I know, this post wouldn’t have been so dire if my computer were working as it should. But I am not down on technology, advances, data, mHealth or any other facet that I find so interesting. To use an expression I really dislike, “it is what it is”. Maybe we can just make our resolution this year to not be so bored by what is happening. I think if we can collectively fire and keep our outrage, we could fight for a better resolution.