FTC chief urges bigger focus on mHealth data collection

Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill supports new laws for boosting healthcare data privacy and protection measures, but said the FTC is not mulling any new regulations on mobile health and fitness applications despite concerns about data collection and storage, according to a Reuters report.

The regulatory body is urging app developers to give consumers more choices when it comes to data sharing and more tools before confidential data is collected and stored, according to the report.

"We don't know where that information ultimately goes," Brill said during a panel discussion held in the District of Columbia on July 23. "It makes consumers uncomfortable."

Brill's comments come just two months after a FTC study revealed many mobile health and fitness applications are sharing user data with third-party vendors, even though no one seems to actually know what the vendors are doing with the data or how they're storing it. Such unknowns have privacy advocates more than a bit concerned the data may be shared even further with other vendors and organizations.

"Information about consumers' most intimate health conditions is going to be sold to the highest bidder," Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told the Washington Post in May. "Employers might get access to it, insurers might get access to it, or mortgage lenders--which could lead to a vast array of negative discriminatory practices."

Brill's comments also come in the middle of frenetic mHealth platform building, device and app development by top technology players, including Apple, Google, Samsung and IBM. The vendor frenzy is spurred by consumer and provider demand for mHealth tools that promise to streamline healthcare costs while boosting services.

As FierceMobileHealthcare has reported, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, lawmakers and mHealth advocacy groups are currently debating regulatory oversight regarding mobile applications with the prime focus on ensuring that apps don't pose risks to users.

Brill said the FTC has been consistently focused on sharing best practices regarding health data for the industry.

To learn more:
- read the Reuters article

Related Articles:
Little privacy protection for personal health data culled from fitness-tracking apps
Debate on mobile app regulatory oversight heats up
FTC: Health, fitness apps share user info with vendors