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Connected Health and Privacy – Can we have both?

Can consumers trust their health information to a private company?  This is a question that Kara Swisher posed to Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe, who did not have a clear answer.  As reported, the conversation was as follows:

“I had a health issue a few months ago and you knew about it, and I didn’t know how to feel about a private company having my information,” Swisher said. “I don’t like the idea of Google having my gut bacteria on file because they could monetize it, you know they could.”

Wojcicki didn’t have a good reply to this concern, simply repeating that having a gigantic public database of genetic information would do more good than harm and that 23andMe has strong privacy protections in place. (

Ms. Wojcicki’s instincts are right but companies outside the realm of licensed health care providers have to work especially hard to establish their credibility in this regard.  I personally believe that a component of this discussion must be a straight up conversation about the limitations of privacy in relation to achieving personal and public health goals.  My recent comment on these issues is at (“Ownership and Privacy of Health Data: An Emerging Conflict.”)

Connected Health and Privacy – Can we have both?