What’s the cost and value of personal privacy online?

This week I read about two interesting uses of patient data.

FastCompany reports on a new app that helps health care providers track patients ups and downs and anamolies…

Ginger.io, a startup founded by Madan and MIT alum Karan Singh that we first covered after it won the Sanofi-aventis Data Design Diabetes challenge last year, is leveraging smartphone data to help people with a variety of ailments–including diabetes and heart disease–better manage their moods. And this week, it picked up $6.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Khosla Ventures.

The Ginger.io app runs silently in the background of participants’ smartphones, collecting text message habits, call frequency, and location. All that data is analyzed and sent back to both patients via the app and doctors and researchers via an online dashboard. If you suddenly stop calling your friends, or don’t go to work for a few days, that could be a sign to your doctors that they need to check in on you more aggressively.

Doctors also have the option of sending out simple surveys–i.e. how did you sleep last night on a scale of 1 to 10?–using the app daily, weekly, or using any other time interval. (Privacy advocates can rest easy, the app doesn’t track who is being called or texted, just that the calls and texts are taking place. It doesn’t track exact location, either, but it can guess whether a place is work or home based on the time of day and length of stay.)

The Wall Street Journal reports on firms that develop and manage digital medical implants are doing and not doing with the data they collect…

The U.S. has strict privacy laws guaranteeing people access to traditional health files. But implants and other new technologies—including smartphone apps and over-the-counter monitors—are testing the very definition of medical records.

Medtronic says federal rules prohibit giving Ms. Hubbard’s data to anyone but her doctor and hospital. “Our customers are physicians and hospitals,” said Elizabeth Hoff, general manager of Medtronic’s data business. Medtronic would need regulatory approval to give patients the data, she said. It hasn’t sought approval because “we don’t have this massive demand.”

At the same time, companies including Medtronic are pushing to turn the data into money. Ms. Hoff said the company is contemplating selling the data to health systems or insurers that could use it to predict diseases and possibly lower their costs. At a July industry event, a senior Medtronic executive, Ken Riff, called these kinds of data “the currency of the future.”

These examples spur an interesting discussion of what we’re willing as citizens (or patients) to give up for technology and what we’re willing as a society to accept in terms of  rights and responsibilities regarding personal privacy. Earlier today I posted about teens and online privacy. Are we sending them mixed messages when we ask them not to mention their hometown online – yet, tools are being developed that will broadcast your medical details, with or without your permission? Yes, in the example of the implant we’re talking about giving up privacy in trade for potential lifesaving technology – but to a teen that may be akin to giving up privacy for potential One Direction tickets.

Just something we may need to consider both as individuals and as a society – what’s the cost and value of personal privacy online?

Pew on Parents, Teens and Online Piracy – Plus Some Advice

It’s 10:00 – do you know where your children are online? It’s a whole new world for teens and for those of us with teens these days. I suppose every generation says that – but when I was a kid the only way you could talk to someone after hours was on the family phone or through a window. Now kids have computers, ipads, smartphones, cell phones, ipods and the window. At least I now know that other parents are as concerned as I am. According to Pew Internet & American Life

  • 81% of parents of online teens say they are concerned about how much information advertisers can learn about their child’s online behavior, with some 46% being “very” concerned.
  • 72% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child interacts online with people they do not know, with some 53% of parents being “very” concerned.
  • 69% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child’s online activity might affect their future academic or employment opportunities, with some 44% being “very” concerned about that.
  • 69% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child manages his or her reputation online, with some 49% being “very” concerned about that.
  • Some of these expressions of concern are particularly acute for the parents of younger teens; 63% of parents of teens ages 12-13 say they are “very” concerned about their child’s interactions with people they do not know online and 57% say they are “very” concerned about how their child manages his or her reputation online.

The question is – what do you do? There are lots of places online to look for advice – some of it good. I was impressed with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) – more because they obviously have decades of offering advice to parents than for any technology tips they offer. The fact that the mention MySpace and not Twitter is telling in terms of technical aptitude but I think the advice they offer transcends platform and that’s what I want as a parent. I know the ins and outs of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. I’m probably at an advantage to some parents there – but I live in fear that my kids are on some network I don’t know about! How can I address the unknown?

The advice from AAP can be distilled into a couple of bullet points (although the full list if worth checking out):

  • Be where your kids are online, take time to understand the platform
  • Tell your kids the importance of respecting their online profile/brand for now and the future
  • Communicate with kids about what they are doing online – ask them what they do!
  • Have access to everything they do (that means friending them and having their passwords)
  • Follow up with checking on what they do!
  • Teach etiquette online – no gossip, no talking to strangers, no bullying, no inappropriate language or pictures (similar to real life!)
  • Make sure you and they understand the law and the dangers
  • Talk with other parents about what their kids are doing and compare notes
  • Be a place they can go for advice

We had a scary incident yesterday that reminded me of the positive role the Internet can have in keeping kids safe. I got an email from the kids’ school that a mysterious white van, no windows had been seen around the neighborhood. The driver and friend had been seen trying to talk to kids on the way home from school. I emailed that to my neighborhood list. Within 15 minutes I had an email from the neighborhood council that the police reported to her that they were in active pursuit. Imagine how long that would have taken if we relied on a phone tree or paper newsletters?

Roadmap to Healthier Minnesota requires better broadband

Working on a  totally unrelated project I found myself reading the recently released Roadmap to Healthier Minnesota, written by the Governor’s Health Care Reform Task Force. The Task Force is meeting on November 29 (this afternoon) to discuss public comment on the report.  Just for context, I’ll include a very high level look at their proposed strategies:

  1. Pay for Value in Health Care
  2. Support PatientCentered, Coordinated Care
  3. Prepare and Support the Health Provider Workforce
  4. Improve Health for Specific At-Risk Populations
  5. Engage Communities
  6. Measure Performance and Ensure System Sustainability
  7. Design Benefits to Enhance Personal Responsibility
  8. Increase Access and Support Consumer Navigation

I’ve been steeped in the Broadband Task Force report lately so it was interesting to see a very different report with a similar goal – effective change in policy in Minnesota to improve the quality of life. I liked their road map, which is a hierarchy of goals, divided into elements then divided into tactics.

More importantly, it was interesting to see the role that broadband plays in the health report. Under strategy two (Support PatientCentered, Coordinated Care) broadband is listed a key element: Invest in high-need infrastructure for telehealth and workforce services that increase access and foster interprofessional competency.

Broadband is the underpinning required to support PatientCentered, Coordinated Care. It indicates that other departments are encouraging broadband adoption by providing more services online. (What better way to reach elderly residents, a demographic that tends to be non-adopters, than through healthcare?!) So what does this mean for the Broadband Task Force?

Tuesday at the Task Force meeting, I learned that the Broadband Subcabinet (includes the Minnesota Office of Enterprise Technology and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development) is meeting next week and that members of the State health and transportation departments will be there. I hope that they will find areas of commonalities – such as this – to strengthen the messages going to the legislators also to help each department hone its message. Recognizing that the Department of Health is hoping to get more folks adopting broadband might help the Task Force focus on access. And while I haven’t read any recent report from the Department of Transportation, I know from conversations with David Asp that strides are being made, at least in Dakota County, to share infrastructure plans to encourage Dig Once practices. Maybe it creates an opportunity to collaborate on a fiber database. Or maybe there are other opportunities within the Department of Transportation to extend an existing infrastructure database to include fiber plans rather than create something new. It seems like together the folks in the know should be able to find such opportunities.

Hopefully the subcabinet meeting will be an opportunity for the State to being to hedge their bets by combining the collective cards of the various Departments and Task Forces to create the best hand possible to bring to the Legislature.

Tech Grants for Teachers

While looking for something unrelated, I happened upon Technology Resource Teachers, a great site that lists lots of grants and contests for teachers. Most of the opportunities are related to technology. Some of the info and links are dated – but a lot of them aren’t.

Here’s one example of the fun funds that are available:

Do Something Grants

Do you need $500 to further the growth and success of your program or turn your idea into reality? Did you recently create a sustainable community action project, program or organization or have a great idea for helping your community? If you answered “YES!”, you’re eligible to apply for a Do Something Grant. Best of all – they’re given out WEEKLY!

Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and stay active for consideration for two months after submission

Wired or Wireless: which do you want in an emergency? Why choose?

On Monday Speed Maters posted an article on the shortcomings of wireless and VoIP in the face of Superstorm Sandy…

If you lived in the path of Superstorm Sandy and had ditched your old landline, chances were much greater you were out of luck. For many people, both cellphones and power went out, and that meant no telecommunications. Some people are still struggling with it.

Clearly this is an issue for folks left off the grid during an emergency. But does this mean that wired is the answer in an emergency? As my friend Bernadine Joselyn has taught me – the best answer to most questions is – it depends. In this case it depends on what the emergency is.

In recent memory, Minnesota has had two standout emergency situations: the 35 Bridge going down and the Republican National Convention. In both cases, I was happy to have access to wireless communication. In the case of the bridge, the phones lines were quickly overwhelmed. So I was happy to both get Tweets from friends who live close to the bridge and to post Tweets for folks outside of Minnesota who think I live close to the bridge. In the case of the RNC, I was glad to have access to mobile maps and communication. It made it so much easier to find a way in and out of St Paul – especially as they closed streets without warning. Also at least locally, the RNC was the first place where citizens could live stream events as they were happening. (Thanks in large part to The UpTake giving citizens cameras that broadcast events as they were being recorded – helping to get unfiltered news to the air waves.)

So does that mean I think wireless is the way to go? It depends. If I were in Sandy’s path, I’d want wired connectivity.

I guess to me the question is – why must we choose one over the other? Both technologies have their advantages. Wired has quality and speed. Wireless has mobility. Like any good network, the capabilities of wired and wireless technologies overlap; this makes for nice redundancy. And their unique qualities indicate that neither could adequately replace the other without giving up some benefit.

At home, I generally use a wired connection but when the kids are home and I need better speeds, I leave wired to them and I use wireless. Or if one goes down, I can always revert to the other. It means I pay more for two connections. Some months I don’t use both options – but on the months I do, it’s worth the extra cost. The cost of redundancy is much less than the lost revenue if I’m offline. It’s great for redundancy – but also I appreciate the unique qualities of each. Months where I travel, I use the heck out of my mobile wireless. But in general I need the all-I-can-eat data plans of my wired connection.

In short I need both wired and wireless connections. (And I’m not even thinking about Smartphone access – I’m thinking pure, get-my-laptop-on-the-network-so-I-can-work connectivity.) I understand the costs for a larger business or community are much greater than my costs – but aren’t the risks greater too? I think more people ought to ask themselves if it makes sense to choose one – or does is it worth the investment to look at both.

Also I’m not thinking about the construction of a broadband network that meets my needs. I’ve tried to make that in other posts. In fact I will point out a video I got of Kevin Beyer (Federated/Farmers Telecom) explaining the need for wired to support wireless last April, which I think further makes the point that it’s not an either/or discussion.

Some of my reaction to the article comes from listening to the Task Force talk about strides necessary to get to the 2015 broadband goals in Minnesota. They stress that we need to make a concerted effort to get to 5 Mbps up and 10 Mbps down by 2015 – and I think they’re using any technology to measure against that goal. I appreciate a technology-neutral stance but having three daughters I know that equal isn’t always equitable. I think we need to quit thinking of wired and wireless in equal terms and appreciate that they are different but equally essential. It’s time transition our ideas on wireless OR wired to wireless AND wired.

Minnesota Broadband Task Force Nov 27, 2012: Full Notes

Today’s Minnesota Broadband Task Force meeting was about rolling up sleeves and diving into the Task Force draft report. The final version is due in early December. The meeting wasn’t about dotting the i’s – but it was about making hard decisions – such as which recommendations to keep and which to toss. It reminded me of writing papers in college – tough to toss out a well written paragraph just because it strayed from the topic.

But some recommendations were tossed out. Some changes were made. There was a general focus on leaving a tight document that would be most effective with legislators. Some recommendation will/may be picked up in 2013.

Today’s notes include some video – which in every case would have made better audio – but it’s quicker for me to leave asis and therefore quicker for me to get online.

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Arrowhead Electric update on NE Minnesota fiber project

I am very thankful that Arrowhead Electric posts regular fiber updates on their Facebook page. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating that it’s a great way to keep customers and faraway lurkers updated on their progress and excited for the final goal.

They post updates on construction…

Work has begun on the final few miles of construction needed to link Arrowhead’s fiber network with the Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC). NESC’s contractor began clearing the underground route along Highway 61 last week and are hard at work plowing underground fiber starting today! Once completed it removes one of the barriers AEC has to begin testing services. Construction of this portion of the NESC network will likely go into January. Following construction AEC and NESC must splice our networks together, install equipment, test software and then we can begin testing services at the AEC office. It’s much too soon to say when this will all happen but things are moving in the right direction!

And they spread the marketing message…

75% of Arrowhead members have given permission for construction of our fiber optic service to date. 46% in the City of Grand Marais…looks like we need to do a bit more promotion in Grand Marais! We’d like to see Grand Marais around 60%. Tell your Grand Marais friends that there is still time to sign-up for the free construction. With Arrowhead and Grand Marais combined we are nearly to 70%.