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Digital Trails


Over the last several years there has been a push towards using ubiquitous, personal, and mobile computing technology to track ones personal health data. The purpose of this being that the recording of health related data will allow for better management and understanding of ones personal health with a eye towards improvement. This computerization of health tracking can take on many different forms. For example, computer games tracking your performance in an attempt to better your mental health or physical health. Personal devices that track and record the number of miles you walk or bike. Other forms of technology allow you to record how long it takes to fall asleep and how many hours of sleep you get each night. Individuals suffering from a life changing disease can participate in online communities that allow them to share with others how their condition changes over time and how they feel. Other commutes allow individuals to publicize personal health goals (such as loosing weight or quitting smoking) and then inform the community when certain milestones towards that goal have been achieved.
Though these are examples of a variety of health tracking systems, they all have something in common. Namely, they all monitor health related information (either automatically or self reported) which are then made available in some form. The explicit and implicit assumption being that this collection and publication of generated data will help guide an individual towards more healthy behavior or helps them understand their condition better.
The purpose of the digital trails project is to better understand how people respond to the generation and collection of this type data. Do individuals understand what is being tracked and if so how do they feel about having this information being collected and shared? Our research project is attempting to answer the following questions: Do individuals understand that their health related information can be tracked? If so do they understand what is being captured? What are individuals’ feelings towards the sharing of health related information with the public, friends, and family? What is the perception of individuals towards the idea of being able to control, manage, or even obfuscate health related information? What are the generational differences between young, middle-age and older adults when it comes to their understanding of how health-information is being captured?
Team: Dan Kutz, Kay Connelly, Kalpana Shankar
Support: Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research