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Personal Data Protection and the Privacy Policies of Health and Lifestyle Apps

Abstract

As a new dad to a healthy and very curious 6 month-old, I live in a constant state of anxiety. The latest of which is that my baby girl’s first spoken word just might end up being “Alexa”, instead of “Mama” or even “Papa”. Technology has indeed crept into our daily lives as natural as breathing air. The convenience of modern technology offers the promise of instant information, entertainment, and connection through voice command or a single tap. Yet through all of these manna from above, sacrifices had been made, at times without our knowledge or consent, to things we hold private.

This study focuses on the state of privacy policies of popular medical and lifestyle apps[i] available in Japan. Imbued with the capability to measure active body movements both during rest (sleeping) and in motion (running), track location, collect activity and search histories, analyze nutritional intakes, monitor heart rates, record sensitive medical conditions, capture images, and even dispense health recommendations.

In the new age of data, the ability and usefulness of using smartphones to benefit our health and fitness should be balanced with valid privacy concerns of the end-users. How could an owner of the latest iPhone or Galaxy smartphone ensure that his or her legal right to privacy will be respected? No other object has captured our data as much as the smartphone through the apps that we ourselves choose to install.


[i] Application programs, further limited to smartphone application programs for the purposes of this study.

 

Antonio Formacion
– Senior Assistant Professor, Kyushu University, Japan

 

  • Background
    Antonio Formacion is an assistant professor at Kyushu University and the coordinator of the Re-inventing Japan Project of Kyushu University, which includes the law faculties of Chulalongkorn University, National University of Singapore, University of Malaya, and Ateneo de Manila University as partner institutions. His research interest is in the field of technology and Internet law with a special focus on online privacy and data protection, for which he is currently involved in a project with Japanese professors in Kanazawa University on the topic of “the Right to Be Forgotten” funded by KDDI Corporation of Japan. Before working in academia, he was Special Assistant for Information and Culture for the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines.
  • Education
    Kyushu University (LL.M.)
    – Kanazawa University (Law)
    – Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Japan Studies)
    – University of San Agustin (LL.B.)