Do You Know Where Your Health Data Is? | Ifeoma Ajunwa

February 13, 2015 9:49 PM

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Do You Know Where Your Health Data Is? | Ifeoma Ajunwa

The data we generate in our digital lives can reveal important information, particularly about our health. For one, our social networks can be predictive of health outcomes and conditions, in part because of shared attitudes amongst social groups about health and behavior, and because socio-economic status is a health determinant. Some research also indicate that search engine queries can be used to infer medical conditions, and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that they could predict heart disease in users by analyzing the language of their Twitter posts better than models that use traditional variables from demographic, socioeconomic, and health risk factors. A research team with members from Microsoft, Stanford, and Columbia is pioneering a method for discovering the underreported side effects of prescription drugs by mining search logs, which can act as an alternative to the FDA's Adverse Event Reporting System, a database where physicians can input their observations of adverse side effects in patients they follow.

Many of us would support the use of our data for medical or health research and some may even welcome the medical interventions prompted by algorithmic systems that detect a looming medical event or the personalized medicine derived from more individualized data-collection. However, when the inferen...

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