News Feature | January 21, 2015

FTC: More Data Transparency Needed

Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

Transaparency Puzzle Piece

According to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, better data security would ease patients’ concerns about the safety of their PHI.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said last week that while the Internet of Things, or IoT, has the potential for great benefits, it also holds the potential for great risks. “The IoT could improve global health, modernize city infrastructures, and spur global economic growth. To be sure, these potential benefits are immense, but so too are the potential risks,” said Ramirez.

MedCity News reports the chairwoman pointed out that there is expected to be some 25 billion connected devices in the world – and this includes health and fitness wearables. She shared her concerns about data collection from these devices, saying, “Connected devices that provide increased convenience and improve health services are also collecting, transmitting, storing, and often sharing vast amounts of consumer data, some of it highly personal, thereby creating a number of privacy risks.”

“Some of the developers entering the IoT market, unlike hardware and software companies, have not spent decades thinking about how to secure their products and services from hackers. The small size and limited processing power of many connected devices could inhibit encryption and other robust security measures.”

According to iHealth Beat, Ramirez advised companies to do the following:

  • Be more attentive to data minimization by collecting only necessary data and deleting data permanently when they are no longer needed;
  • Implement “privacy by design,” or building privacy safeguards into devices; and
  • Increase transparency about data use and make terms of use more clear.

Ramirez’s speech rings similar to that of FTC Commissioner Julie Brill who said in July that she was concerned “about the way apps on smartphones and mobile devices are siphoning sensitive health data, and how some of that information may then be shared with third parties.”

“We don't know where that information ultimately goes,” said Brill, according to Health IT Outcomes. “It makes consumers uncomfortable.”