Polar's app leaked military locations, Asian parents more often trust health AI, and more digital health news briefs

By Dave Muoio
03:59 pm

Prying eyes. Polar now joins Strava in the list of fitness app makers accidentally betraying military information. According to a report from the Dutch publication De Correspondent, an opt-in feature within the app posts users’ routes to an online map can become a gateway to their private information with diligent searching and a simple modification of the browser’s web address. Working with the citizen journalist collective Bellingcat, De Correspondent was able to identify soldiers by name and address, as well as access a recorded history of their jogging routes within nuclear storage facilities, high security prisons, drone bases, and other military sites.

“It is important to understand that Polar has not leaked any data, and there has been no breach of private data,” Polar wrote in a statement posted on its website Friday. “Currently the vast majority of Polar customers maintain the default private profiles and private sessions data settings, and are not affected in any way by this case. While the decision to opt-in and share training sessions and GPS location data is the choice and responsibility of the customer, we are aware that potentially sensitive locations are appearing in public data, and have made the decision to temporarily suspend the Explore API.”

The app maker said that it is currently investigating how best to allow customers to continue to use the Explore feature.

Eyes forward. The University of Texas at Arlington has been awarded a patent for a headset device designed to unobtrusively track the wearer’s eye movement, and then use these as command inputs for certain devices. By combining 3D mapping technology with a 3D camera placed on top of the headset, the headset models the wearer’s surrounding environment to identify the real-world object at which the user is looking. Among the many implementations for this tech cited by the researchers are navigation while using electric wheelchairs.

"This technology could also be important to track medical problems that affect eye movement patterns, such as stroke, low blood pressure and other conditions," Christopher McMurrough, the device’s inventor and a lecturer at UTA, said in a statement. "We are also seeing that it could have implications for video games and emerging augmented reality applications.”

Artificial trust. New data from IEEE’s annual global survey found that 45 percent of US and UK millennial parents are “very likely” to allow AI-powered robots to conduct surgery on their child, as opposed to 82 percent and 78 percent of Chinese and Indian millennial parents, respectively. Roughly a third of these parents from China, the US, and Brazil said they would strongly trust a doctor whose clinical decisions were based on AI recommendations for their child’s life-or-death care. Further, more than 80 percent of Asian parents said they are likely to someday use an AI chatbot to diagnose their child, with more than a third being very likely to do so.

Headaches aren’t always a personal matter. A substantial portion of commercial headache apps appear to have privacy risks, according to a recent review published in the journal Headache. In a sample of 29 such apps — 14 of which were diaries and 15 of which focused on relaxation — roughly three-quarters included a privacy policy. The researchers also found that more than half of the diary apps with visible privacy policies shared some user data with third parties for targeted advertisements.

"In 2018, it is estimated that nearly half of 3.4 billion smartphone users will use health-related apps, and currently, there are a wide range of apps on the market for various neurologic and pain conditions," Dr. Mia Minen, of NYU Langone Medical Center in New York and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. "We think our study may have widespread implications for people suffering from various chronic conditions.”

Automated patient data collection. Medical device maker Masimo announced today the launch of its Vital Signs Check Application, an integrated offering within its Masimo Root patient monitoring platform for hospitals. The new software helps care teams centralize vital signs testing data collection within a single device, generate early warning scores, and otherwise automate these data collection workflows.

“With the Vital Signs Check app, Root’s utility is further enhanced, taking an important aspect of hospital care — the repetitive, data-and-labor-intensive measurement of patient vitals — that can benefit greatly from automation and bringing it in line with the best that modern technology offers,” Joe Kiani, founder and CEO of Masimo, said in a statement.


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