The Future Of Data Mining Your Health

data mining

In a few years, will corporations, employers, insurers and others track “diseased lists” of individuals whose social media, smartphone, and purchasing activity hints that they may have health problems? Via PandoDaily, Michael Carney writes:

According to a sales rep for a midwest data co-location and analytics startup who asked to remain anonymous, regional hospitals, insurers, and grocery retailers are already investigating ways to work together to translate consumer purchase data into health risk profiling insights.

Kevin Pledge, CEO of underwriting-technology consultancy Insight Decision Solutions told the Economist last year that he has forgone the use of supermarket loyalty-cards and begun paying cash for his burgers to avoid this very type of profiling. The same article mentions a life-settlements firm declining to purchase an insurance policy based on social media activity that contradicted the supposed poor health of the policy-holder.

As we document and share more of where we go, what we do, who we spend time with, what we eat, what we buy, how hard we exert ourselves, and so on, we create more data that companies can and will use to evaluate our worthiness – or lack thereof – for their products, services, and opportunities. For those of us who don’t measure up compared to the rest of the population, the outcome won’t be pretty.

It will also be our own fault. Consumers are signing up to collect and share personal data at an alarming rate via sleep monitors, pedometers and activity trackers, dietary logs, brainwave monitors, grocery and restaurant loyalty cards, credit cards, Foursquare and Facebook check-ins, and photo geotagging, among other means. As insurers, lenders, and others attempt to manage risk, they will inevitably turn alternative data sources to round out the picture of each consumer applicant – in fact, they already are.

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  • Liam_McGonagle

    All of this is predicated on the idea that more information always leads to better results. Which clearly it does not.

    You can make the argument that humans are essentially animals, and that therefore that “better” ultimately doesn’t matter. But I don’t think so.

  • Elenchus

    I guess this is one way to address obesity and poor nutrition; tax being unhealthy at a rate that makes it unaffordable. However, people en mass will have to wise up to the illness inducing food they are being sold.

  • Anarchy Pony

    Combine this with the tracking of a person’s political ideology and Boom! You’ve got a veritable recipe for declaring someone a non person among potential employers.

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