CEA Releases Guiding Principles on Wellness Data Privacy
November 2, 2015
By Bettina Experton, MD, MPH, CEO of Humetrix

When it comes to health data, nothing is more important to consumers than their privacy. As a result, those of us working in the health IT field must put security and privacy at the center of all we do in developing health applications and devices. The Consumer Electronics Association has released Guiding Principles on the Privacy and Security of Personal Wellness Data for the health and fitness wearable ecosystem. The Principles are an important step that will help ensure trust between consumers and the innovators offering tools that consumers can use to manage their health - and health information.

These Guiding Principles are voluntary recommendations for companies providing applications or devices that handle personal data, including blood pressure, heart rate, steps, weight, and other health and wellness information. As the market for fitness and health monitoring devices continues to experience explosive growth, the industry is committing to better informing consumers about guarding their privacy, and demonstrating our commitment to keeping their personal data safe.

According to Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CEA, "The industry itself created and approved these Guiding Principles, recognizing that we need to evolve with common purpose to build and maintain consumers' trust. Consensus solutions are the most efficient and effective way to promote innovation, while recognizing the needs of consumers. Achieving this degree of agreement among companies in such a vast, rapidly-evolving tech category is nothing short of remarkable."

CEA’s research has shown that consumers are aware of the possible privacy risks when their wellness data is transmitted to unaffiliated third parties. These Principles address these risks and strongly advise companies to obtain consumer consent prior to transferring their wellness data or using it for advertising purposes. The Principles recommend that companies:

Provide robust security measures;
Provide clear, concise and transparent information on the use of data collection, storing and sharing, especially when transferring data to unaffiliated third parties;
Allow consumers the ability to control and review their personal wellness data;
Offer users the ability to opt out of advertising; and
Disclose their protocol for law enforcement requests.

The Principles will help to ensure that consumers can now be informed of both the value and potential risk associated with mhealth apps and devices. They also encourage companies to clearly articulate their privacy policies and obtain express consent from consumers before sharing any of their data.

Much as we control our own financial data, we must have control of our own health data and the devices and applications generating that data. This is an imperative if we want to ensure control over both access to and the sharing of our information.

Mobile doesn’t mean unsafe – to the contrary it can help guard your security because your device is in your hands, under your own control, with your data stored locally with strong encryption technology. Consumers who look for technologies that adhere to the Principles can enjoy all the benefits of health and fitness tech, while ensuring that they stay in control, keep their information safe for their own use, and share it with others as they wish.

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