Books et al.Health Analytics

Big data meets human health

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Science  15 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6296, pp. 227
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8769

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Summary

There is a "veritable explosion" in the number of people using digital and wearable devices to record, analyze, and reflect upon data created by their own bodies and behaviors. In their new book, Self-Tracking, Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus tread carefully between the twin pitfalls of techno-utopianism and techno-dystopianism to develop a nuanced position that acknowledges both the opportunities and the challenges raised by this trend. Elad Yom-Tov's Crowdsourced Health discusses a different field of digital health, in which data are generated not through the use of wearable devices but from queries entered in search engines. Based on the premise that these searches mirror our offline behavior and that the Internet offers greater privacy and accessibility than many other possible sources of information, he shows how these data could reveal information about health that would be difficult or impossible to gather in other ways. The question that has yet to be answered is what should ultimately be done with all of these data—and by whom.