Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Virtual Health

Even as flash drives with increasing capacities are becoming ubiquitous, it's obvious to me that files, photos, contacts and even ideas are gravitating more and more to web servers in lieu of local hard disk drives. Is a remote computer the best place to store our personal information?

When it comes to photos and videos, more and more folks seem pretty comfortable with services like Flickr and YouTube;
When it comes to email, the majority of users seem content with Gmail and other web-based email;
When it comes to banking information, a great number of adults are comfortable with online banking, and with the sharing of digital data to make online purchases;
When it comes to health information, we may very soon be asked to consider consolidating our health records with Google Health!

The New York Times story about the behind-the-scenes development of Google Health, has me considering a number of questions related to the collection and remote safe-keeping of such data:

My pharmacy already maintains my personal prescription data... How secure is this information? Will my doctor and the hospitals I visit in the future save time in learning about me? Can accurate online data make my life easier? What might be the ramifications of errors in the recording of data? Will my email account soon be home to ads for a customized selection of medications?

Are we moving closer to the day when all personal information will be centralized? Will computers such as cell phones and other palm technologies become the tools we use to access global computers? Will legal battles be fought to maintain the privacy of such information?

It seems to me that any one tool that efficiently manages my email; my web content; my personal media; my banking information; my health information; my personal feeds; my entertainment... will be guaranteed long term access to my eyes and the eyes of my family members.

Should we be worried about the hosting of all this personal information online? I'm not sure, but it seems that we've become more and more comfortable with someone else storing and securing an expanding range of our personal information. The potential uses/misuses of this information are due some careful consideration.

Why it should matter to educators is discussed on the Teacher 2.0 podcast...


Doug said...

It's more than just hosting it on a remote computer, Rodd. There was a report on the CBC yesterday of yet another laptop stolen or lost with thousands of pieces of student information.

Having a password on a Windows computer is no security. Anyone with a bootable Linux CD-ROM is into the machine in a matter of minutes.

Higher levels of encryption should be the norm and required.