FTC Commissioner Discusses Mobile Health Data Collection Concerns

July 24, 2014 in News

On Wednesday, Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill during a round-table discussion said she has concerns about the collection and use of health data from mobile phones, Reuters reports.

Background

Brill’s comments follow the release of an FTC report in May that recommended Congress pass legislation to make data broker practices more transparent and give consumers greater control over their personal health information (Farr, Reuters, 7/23).

The report found that data brokers are collecting large amounts of personal information, including medical data, about “nearly every U.S. consumer” and are operating with a “fundamental lack of transparency” (iHealthBeat, 5/28).

Commissioner Comments

During a round-table discussion led by Association for Competitive Technology Executive Director Morgan Reed, Brill said she feared that the expansiveness of big data in the health care industry could pose significant privacy and compliance challenges for current regulatory laws.

She said she believes restrictions should be put in place that regulate the collection and use of such data (Sullivan, VentureBeat, 7/23).

Brill noted that FTC has spent years establishing best practices for the quickly growing mobile health industry, and that FTC commissioners in the past have stressed that health data are sensitive and require specific protections.

She said, “We don’t know where that information ultimately goes,” adding, “It makes consumers uncomfortable.”

After the panel discussion, Reed said, “The mobile health industry needs to educate the FTC about why collecting health data can provide better health outcomes.” He added, “If we fail to do this, the commission could take action that would devastate [mobile] application developers” (Reuters, 7/23).

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