Looking healthy has been increasingly in vogue in the past decade, with the Hollywood obsession of looking slim, tanned, and fit. People spend hours in the gym lifting weights, doing yoga, and jogging on the streets. Active wear is practically high fashion these days. Health is becoming a culture, where you compete with your friends over how many steps you take a day, how many protein shakes you have had this week, and how many hours of sleep you got last night.
And modern technology has never been so convenient about recording all of these things and streamlining all that information into accessible places. You put on your Fitbit or Apple Watch and it easily tracks information about heart rate and the amount of steps you ran on the treadmill or walked home from work. You place your phone on your nightstand and it tracks your sleeping cycles while you are sleeping at night. Synchronization makes it so that all of this information is available on your phone, tablet, laptop, or whatever other device you want. You download a program that organizes all of these things into colorful graphs, plotting sleep against blood pressure and the amount of sugars eaten against quality of sleep.
All of these applications that you have been linking together for convenience share your personal information with each other: height, weight, sleeping patterns, and diet. Although these are normally considered confidential information and protected when gathered by medical practitioners, this situation hardly calls for medical experts. This information is simply gathered and sorted by programs that collect metadata on you. GPS tracking is used to track your footsteps and used to find the places that you frequent. Internet connection lines and IP addresses allow the websites that you visit to collect information about your location. The information that you, yourself, enter into applications, such as a diet tracker about everything that you have eaten this week, is there and fair game, but the applications will also learn something about your meal times or free times that you have, during which you enter this information.
By sharing and linking more and more information about yourself, you disclose that very private information to parties that may not be trustworthy. Although there are regulations to ensure that medical applications on mobile devices have medical information locked by good cyber security, many applications are merely used to gather medical data and are thus do not fall under these standards. It is possible that your information could be collected and sold to other companies for data mining and other purposes. Your devices could be used to record your medical data without your permission, and then transmitted to someone else.
Technology tends to evolve faster and proliferates information and innovation, while laws can do naught but spend its entire time chasing after technology with policies and statutes. Whether this feels like a huge violation of privacy or just an unavoidable effect of modernization is a personal opinion, although if it is something that you feel strongly about, you should take steps to minimize the information spread.
This is likely the direction that medical care will take in the future. Already, Apple Watch has partnered with medical database Mayo Clinic to impart fitness information as well as give suggestions about living a healthy lifestyle. It is likely that in the future, medical applications will begin to diagnose health problems and even preemptively detect irregularities in health patterns. Although privacy laws can be improved upon, collection of this information already seems inevitable.
Keep in mind that the invention of the telephone was a miracle once upon a time, and people back then could not even have fathomed the necessity for a landline in every home. Today, many people no longer even have landlines, preferring to streamline all calls into their smartphones, which also act as television, computer, and camera. Technology only continues to advance in an effort to make life more convenient for people. You can either work with the flow, or against it.