One of the main topics associated with the growth of digital media and technology is the idea of privacy. We have spent a great deal in class discussing the importance of privacy and one’s ability to manage and protect their own reputation online. Individuals have the right to control what others know about them, but to what extent does social media push the limit of these rights? Frequent and easy access to the ability to create websites, and the increase of social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram have made exploitation of society very simple. Peopleofwalmart.com is a PERFECT (and personal favorite) example of actually invading someone’s privacy without them realizing, even if malicious results were not necessarily intended. While the pictures of the ridiculous outfits on the site may be amusing at times, it places those in the pictures in an unfair situation. The people posting the pictures may be in private, but clearly the people posted on the World Wide Web are at a bit of a disadvantage when their pictures are available for anyone to see without their control. This leads me to the questions: Who really controls privacy, and who has the power to post? While users of social media have the right to control (some) of their own privacy settings, how could one ever control what is posted about them by other users?
Meera Senthilingam’s recent article on CNN “Instagram for Doctors” discusses the latest medical photo-sharing app, Figure 1. This new app is a place where “healthcare professionals can share photographs and information about their patients for both learning and diagnosis purposes” (Senthilingam). Medical professionals can aid each other in diagnosing patients based off of easily shared photos and scans on the app. The creator of the app, Dr. Joshua Landy, attempts to target the app to those working in healthcare by asking new users for personal occupational information and by only allowing medical professionals to add their photos or comments. Also, the app grants anonymity to the patients by requiring their permission for their photos to be shared with consent forms, and also by removing identifying features, numbers, and names before they are publically accessible. Landy created this app in May of 2013 in order to create an easier and more accessible “global knowledge network” for medical professionals to share their insights. This app allows for extremely easy conglomeration of knowledge between doctors and different expert viewpoints that could vastly benefit the patient.
While over 150,000 users in 19 different countries now use the app, this new digitized medicine personally leaves me a bit skeptical. My personal decision to share my photos would obviously depend on the medical issue I was experiencing. Second opinions are always helpful, but I am not sure if I want my private information shared across the globe to doctors that I am not comfortable with. While Landy says that patients have to give signed approval for their photos to be shared, I think that it would be easy to manipulate a patient because photo-sharing is so quick and easy. Also, because medical professionals are the main users of the app, how would the patient know if they were being exploited? Users are “verified” to be licensed medical professionals, but what if someone lacking qualifications gets access to their mobile device and all of the personal information it stores? Doctors claim work to protect patient’s identities. However, according to Figure 1’s FAQ webpage, because the images do not contain personal patient information, they do not fall under the U.S’s HIPAA Privacy Rule, or similar privacy regulations across the globe. The webpage claims to “immediately and securely destroy” an image be deemed to potentially identify a patient, but who gets to make that decision?
I may be too skeptical of an amazing innovation in the medical field, and it appears that the website has lots of Terms of Service, protocols, and answers to every question. However, I would be sure to read into every detail of the Terms of Service and Community Guidelines before releasing my information to the world. In my opinion, social media and global networks can never really be private; according to the world, inventions such Figure 1 will continue to grow and are destined to prevail into the future.