It’s a sad fact of our late capitalist world that data is one of the hottest currencies. Every move you make online–and sometimes off, too!–is likely being tracked in some way and then sold to the highest bidder. New research shows that even health apps, which often store users’ most personal information, are also sharing the data they collect. To make matters worse, for many of these programs, it’s simply impossible to opt out.
The study was performed by a team of researchers in Australia, Canada, and the U.S., reports Gizmodo. They decided to download 24 of the most popular health-related apps on Android. For each app, the team made four fake profiles and each used the programs 14 times. On the 15th time, they slightly changed the information they provided to the apps and tracked if the network traffic changed. This way, the researchers were able to see if the apps shared the data change, as well as where they shared it.
The findings were depressing. Writes Gizmodo:
Overall, they found 79 percent of apps, including [popular apps Medscape, Ada, and Drugs.com], shared at least some user data outside of the app itself. While some of the unique entities that had access to the data used it to improve the app’s functions, like maintaining the cloud where data could be uploaded by users or handling error reports, others were likely using it to create tailored advertisements for other companies. When looking at these third parties, the researchers also found that many marketed their ability to bundle together user data and share it with fourth-party companies even further removed from the health industry, such as credit reporting agencies. And while this data is said to be made completely anonymous and de-identified, the authors found that certain companies were given enough data to easily piece together the identity of users if they wanted to.
Essentially, most of the apps were sharing the data users’ input in some capacity, and often that information was shared once again with another entity. Sometimes the data would be used for advertising, other times for something related to credit reporting. (According to the study, only one credit reporting agency had an agreement with a third party: Equifax. Of course, it’s not terribly comforting that the company had one of the largest hacks in recent memory.)
The sad part is that these findings aren’t terribly surprising, nor are they illegal. Most apps broker user data in some capacity. Usually they use it for marketing and advertising, yet, as the credit report agency example shows, the data could be shared with truly anyone for myriad purposes. While third parties claim to anonymize the data, it’s been repeatedly proven that it can easily be re-identified.
The two real lessons from studies like these are that users of digital health programs need to be vigilant with the programs they use. It’s possible to protect your data, but it takes a lot of homework. But most of all, there needs to be a heightened call to protect consumers from these predatory practices.
Today, we dig deeper into your health privacy as part of our series The Privacy Divide, and find that what you don’t know about your health data could make you sick.
Cannes Lions is one of the most coveted and respected creative festivals in the world. The trophies are recognised globally as the ultimate achievement in creativity and winning at the Cannes Lions Health Festival puts us among the world’s elite. Below we hear from Tom Richards,
Chief Creative Officer of the Havas Lynx Group, the agency named as this year’s Cannes Lions Healthcare Agency of the Year.
To have seven shortlisted entries was incredible. To win two silvers and a bronze was amazing. To win Healthcare Agency of the Year is outstanding and exceeded all of our expectations. However, never ones to rest on our laurels, we came home not only armed with a new set of trophies for our cabinet, but also energised from being exposed to so much life-changing and inspirational work. In this article, I share some of the key learnings and trends with supporting case studies from the remarkable Cannes Lions Health Festival 2018.
Learning 1: Empathy
This is the new insight. It goes beyond profiles and stats. It’s about understanding your audience on a deeper level. Knowing what moves them, what drives them, what makes them feel.
Case Study: Ouchie
Agency: Havas Lynx
Award: Silver Lion
When we think of arthritis we think of the old and frail. But Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (sJIA) actually affects a significant number of children. The painful flare-ups can leave them feeling extremely ill. Research showed they were too embarrassed to tell their teacher or carer that they felt unwell, describing how their condition left them feeling isolated from their classmates. The solution was simple: a patient support pack aimed specifically at children with sJIA, and a two-tone wristband to help them discreetly communicate how they’re feeling.
Learning 2: Craft
Take a great idea and make it absolutely shine. Beauty and impact in equal measure. Craft is often undervalued in the world of pharma, but when used appropriately it elevates the idea and execution to a space that cannot be ignored.
Case study: The AttackAgency: Havas Lynx
Award: Silver Lion
Not your typical HCP film. Shot in 1:235 cinema formatting, with a tense and atmospheric style, it follows an elderly man who talks about an attack he had in the sea. He describes the impact – the pain, the chaos and the suffering – and we experience the attack with him through Jaws-style shots. The film ends with a big reveal: this wasn’t a shark attack, but a heart attack.
Trend 1: Problem Solving
Zone in on the core issue and find the best way to solve it. The end result should change perceptions or behaviours – or even laws. What’s great
about these ideas is that it doesn’t have to be a campaign, or even an ad, that answers the problem.
Case Study: Blink to Speak
Client: Asha Ek Hope Foundation and NeuroGen
Brain & Spine Institute
Award: Grand Prix/Gold Lion/Silver Lion
Creating an affordable way to help patients speak.
The challenge for hospitals treating patients with ALS,
MNDS or spinal cord injuries is that current solutions are ultra hi-tech and extremely expensive, making them inaccessible. The solution: a new language based solely on blinking. Knowing that this is often the one movement that patients still have control over, Blink to Speak offered a
very simple way for patients to tell a doctor if they were uncomfortable, if they needed entertainment or if they needed to go home.
Trend 2: Technology
This isn’t just technology for the sake of it. It’s not about being showy or shiny – it’s about making life better. The below is a great example of tech that fits the problem at hand and integrates seamlessly into the context.
Case Study: Dot Mini
Client: Becks DOT Inc
Award: Gold Lion
Because of the difficulty in translation and printing, only 3% of all text is available in braille. So they created an AI that could translate texts into braille – much faster than a human. They built it into a single device that could convert the texts into braille, using plastic ‘dots’ that move up and down with each sentence. The Dot Mini has access to hundreds of thousands of texts, and as the AI gets smarter, that number will only increase. Couple that with audio integration and you’ve got an absolute game changer.
Trend 3: Humour
I’m happy to see that pharma is finally taking steps into this territory. There’s still work to do as there’s seemingly a perception that most patients or doctors don’t have a sense of humour – but used appropriately, a bit of comedy can completely transform a healthcare campaign.
Case Study: No Needles
Agency: McCann Birmingham
Award: Gold Lion
A radio campaign promoted a device that allows diabetes patients to monitor their blood sugar levels without needles.
And they made it funny. Very funny. The idea is that the world is already full of pricks – so, as a diabetic, the last thing you want is another one in your finger. The wryly-observed scripts give some examples of the sorts of pricks we encounter on a day-to-day basis. It’s an unexpected place to use humour – and that’s what makes it so good.
Find out more insights from the Cannes Lions Healthcare Agency of the Year at www.havaslynx.com
Tom Richards is Chief Creative Officer at the Havas Lynx Group
Kenya’s Ugunja Community Resource Center will empower community health volunteers in Western Kenya with field-tested, mobile phone software to individualize early child development care. Photo by: Grand Challenges Canada
A new database managed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing opportunities to better understand priorities for funders supporting innovative health projects.
Years in the making, the Grand Challenges Award Repository provides information on 2,009 projects that have been through funded seven innovative health initiatives since 2005 — including five grand challenges, Saving Brains and Saving Lives at Birth.
To understand how these initiatives are helping the development community in Going for Goals, Devex has analyzed the data and produced a visualization tool to unlock critical insights.
What are the funding priorities?
The Devex analysis of the dataset reveals infectious diseases tops innovative funding support according to the dataset. Since 2005, this sector of development health has received more than $550 million in funding for 1,057 projects providing new and innovative ideas to tackle, prevent and eliminate infectious diseases in the developing world.
Of the diseases the projects aim to support, HIV projects dominate, accounting for 199 projects and almost $100 million in funding since 2005. The peak for HIV projects was in 2011, where 44 were awarded funding. Malaria and tuberculosis projects are also high priorities for funders, according to the data, each receiving $51 million in funding support.
Funding for maternal and child health follows behind infectious diseases in priority, with $136 million in funding since 2005. And a long way behind that are mental health and WASH, both receiving $22 million in support since 2005.
With 1,300 projects in the database managed through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the focus on infectious diseases is unsurprising — it is a high priority for the organization. So far, they have invested $357 million into this area of innovative research.
The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health has also been an important source of funding for this area, managing $178 million worth of grants for infectious diseases since 2005.
But the dataset also shows that funding in support of innovation is allowing for experimentation and risk. For Grand Challenges Canada, 593 projects were classified as a “proof-of-concept” with 38 classified as “transition-to-scale.” Innovative funding for health is allowing for true innovation and impact of new ideas to be determined.
What is the geographic distribution?
The location of funding recipients shows a large sway toward research from the United States. A total of 771 projects have gone to the U.S., accounting for $393 million in grants. And a massive 86 percent of this goes directly to research and projects for infectious diseases.
The United Kingdom is a long way behind in second, with $93 million in funding followed by Canada with $57 million. Kenyan organizations have secured $34 million in funding and are ranked fourth in recipients, ahead of Germany and Australia.
In looking at the geographic location of projects, India tops the list in both number of projects (98) and funding (almost $20 million) thanks to Grand Challenges India. 2014 was their peak year for funding, with 36 projects accounting for $6 million. Maternal and child health is a focus for India-based projects, accounting for 26 projects and more than $8 million in funding. Close behind are projects responding to infectious disease — 25 projects and more than $4 million in funding.
Kenya and Uganda round out the top three for both number of projects and funding, with projects operating in these countries prioritizing maternal and child health needs within their borders.
Canada is the only western country to make the top 10 — ranked sixth for projects but 15th for funding with Grand Challenges Canada an important source of this.
Additional geographic data is available in the dataset that identifies countries supported by projects, however this is a field that is not predominantly populated within the database and provides only minor insight into impact. It is an area of the dataset that is hoped will be improved over time.
The challenge of collecting innovative funding data
Zach Charat, from the global health, discovery and translational sciences with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke to Devex about the purpose, development and future for the data repository — which he describes as been a long and demanding process.
“We wanted to create a data model that was powerful but limited,” he said. “Some of the initial conversations were crazy in terms of the tracking requests we had. But there was no way we could get the community to agree to everything, so we decided to simply focus on what is most useful — a core set of 20 or fewer fields to start with.”
Information within the database is provided by the managing organization of the grants, and the process of tracking funders and getting them to agree to the data fields for inclusion highlighted the issues with data collection on innovative funding.
Where the money goes, where the work is being done and potential beneficiaries are useful pieces of information that are available within the database, but not necessarily populated universally by the data providers.
“Most of the really juicy information is not in there — including outcomes,” Charat said. “But all of the data providers have a relatively clean checkbook, and can at least tell us where the money went.”
And it is still easily the most informative dataset available on innovative health funding, according to Charat. “We’ve got India in there, China in there, Korea in there,” he said. “I need to work on Israel but they only have a dozen. It’s actually quite complete — it is missing a few but if you are working on a dataset for innovative health funding, this is the most complete available.”
And the ease of accessibility to information makes this a valuable dataset for the development sector.
“Now we can answer question on a range of issues related to health funding, including maternal and child health funding,” Charat said. “Previously it would have taken weeks — or you would just have given up.”
What is the next stage for innovating funding data?
Now that the data is available, the priority is to convince the development community it is an important initiative to get behind and add even more value to the data.
“It would be great if each organization could track nuances in their data better, but we are in the early stages of collecting data and are focused on getting them out of the mud to see the value,” Charat said. “If they see value, organizations may look to hire a summer student to do a big clean up and provide more value.”
But there are also a range of options being trialled and tested for dynamic inputs, outputs and analytics.
“Some organizations want a dynamic API to collect their data but others may make a dozen grants per year — their upload process is manual,” Charat explained. “We are working through the development of the API to make it easy for an organization to hook into the dataset.”
Analysis in understanding the next stage of needs is important to progressing the database moving forward. The first generation of users are primarily funders who just want to understand what their colleagues are doing. Charat will be helping to scope the second generation use case of the site to identify and provide future services.
And increased datasets is also a priority in development.
“The next big one we are fishing for is the U.S. Agency for International Development data, particularly Saving Lives at Birth programs that are not currently managed by Gates Foundation or Grand Challenges Canada,” Charat said. “Saving Lives at Birth is a complicated one — even the grantees themselves don’t know who their funder is. It is a split funding disaster. That’s my last frontier in terms of big sets we need.”
For Charat, the possibilities of the stories and successes that can come out of the dataset are endless. “Once you get a good foundation of data, you can go crazy and dream up all sorts of really fun and potential applications,” he said.
Earlier, users had to mark activities as ‘Done’ manually
Google introduces Goals API to its fitness app last year
The update is already available on App Store
Google has updated its calendar app’s Goals feature to allow integration with Google Fit and Apple Health applications to help people stay on track with their New Year resolutions. With this integration in place, the activities recorded by your Android phone or iPhone will be used to mark users’ goals as ‘Done’ automatically by Google Calendar app.
The search giant introduced the Goals feature last year to its Calendar app with the aim of helping people find time for their desired activities. However, before this update, users were required to manually mark their goals as done every time they completed an activity. With the latest update, that has now changed.
Further, “With this integration, future goal times will be even more tailored based on when you’re most likely to complete them,” Google said in its blog post.
In case you have set a goal to go for a run every day at 6:30 in the morning but are not able to do it till 7:00, the Calendar app with adjust accordingly and “help you find the best time” for your activities, Google said. Even though the update has already popped up at the App Store, the Android update is expected to roll out soon as well.
Google introduced the Goals API to the Google Fit app on Android back in October last year to enable it to read goals set by the user.
For the latest coverage from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, visit our CES 2017 hub.
Tags: Google Calendar Update, Google Calendar Goals, Google Fit, Apple Health, Apps, Android, Google