by Sam Volchenboum

The world is becoming one big clinical trial. Humanity is generating streams of data from different sources every second. And this information, continuously flowing from social media, mobile GPS and wifi locations, search history, drugstore rewards cards, wearable devices, and much more, can provide insights into a person’s health and well-being.

It’s now entirely conceivable that Facebook or Google—two of the biggest data platforms and predictive engines of our behavior—could tell someone they might have cancer before they even suspect it. Someone complaining about night sweats and weight loss on social media might not know these can be signs of lymphoma, or that their morning joint stiffness and propensity to sunburn could herald lupus. But it’s entirely feasible that bots trolling social network posts could pick up on these clues.

Sharing these insights and predictions could save lives and improve health, but there are good reasons why data platforms aren’t doing this today. The question is, then, do the risks outweigh the benefits?

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