Op-ed: Privacy considerations to keep in mind with Amazon's Halo
Amazon Halo accessory bandsSource: AmazonThis weeks launch of the Amazon Halowearable represents a critical new entrant not only into the health-tech wearable industry, but also into the broader health care ecosystem.Amazons Halo will compete with Fitbit and Apple Watch, and start-ups like the Oura Ring. But the device not only allows customers to track things like exercise and sleep, which are common in fitness wearables, but can also track emotional changes by listening to the wearers tone of voice and can present a 3D body image with a body fat percentage.In aparallel announcement, one of the largest electronic medical record companies,Cerner Corporation, said that users of the Halo device will have the option to upload information collected by the device to their physicians Cerner health record, beginning with the Sharp Health System in San Diego.These developments potentially represent a step forward for physicians to make use of health data that patients generate on their own.But the new functionality of Halo also raises new privacy implications, which Ive spent my career focused on, both at private companies and at the federal government. A company that has changed our expectations around convenience and personalized recommendations will now be selling a device and membership to collect some of the most intimate health details of a persons life. And much of the conversation in the wake of Thursdays announcement has rightly centered on trust as Amazon makes a more direct entry into consumer health care.So going forward, the company would be well-served to keep several key topics in mind:No standard rules for data collection from wearablesIn 2016, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) the federal government team responsible for health and informatics policy development delivered a report to Congresshighlighting basic legal gaps in consumer protection collected via fitness trackers, compared to devices and systems governed by the rules governing privacy known as HIPAA.I was formerly the Chief Privacy Officer of ONC at the time, and worked on this report.Currently, neither Amazon, nor Apple, nor any other retail fitness tracker is required by federal law to maintain any particular privacy standard. (California residents may benefit, though, from the California Consumer Privacy Act.) This is an important point.