Lead Institution: Dartmouth

Project Leader: David Kotz

Research Progress

  • Abstract
    The project focused on understanding sharing behavior of people who use mHealth devices to collect and share their health and wellness information, to develop flexible sharing controls so mHealth apps and systems can help users better map their sharing preferences to the sharing settings.

  • Focus of the research/Market need for this project
    Prior to this research there was no public research study exploring the perceptions and preferences of mHealth device users in which the study tested real mHealth devices on real people with real sharing of data. In our study, therefore, the subjects were faced with making real sharing decisions, and we were able to observe what data-sharing choices they made, and how and when they changed those choices. Although there is no market need for this study per se, the conclusions of this study should be helpful to those companies developing mHealth products that desire to provide their users with some control over privacy and sharing of the data collected by the product.

  • Project Aims/Goals
    The goal of this project was to learn how individuals think about privacy in mHealth, and how they choose to share mHealth data when actually collecting data and actually sharing it with others.

  • Key Conclusions/Significant Findings/Milestones reached/Deliverables

    • We conducted 8 focus groups (n=43) with different potential users of mHealth devices to explore consumer concerns and opinions. During the focus groups, participants expressed the need for controlling the sharing of their information and having flexibility over how to share based on the recipients and the type of information.
    • We conducted a user study (n=41) in which the subjects wore a “Fitbit” mobile device – a commercial product that counts steps and measures physical activity – and shared that personal health-related information via an application we developed. During the user study, we confirmed our findings from the focus group, that people share differently with different types of recipients and that they consider some information types more privacy-sensitive than others. We also observed that people change their sharing behavior over time.
    • Submitted a comment letter to the “ONC Mobile Devices Roundtable: Safeguarding Health Information” call for public input regarding mobile health privacy, based on the joint work of TEL-Remote and EHR-Policy user study of mHealth sensor devices.
  • Materials Available for Other Investigators/interested parties
    We have published several technical reports and peer-reviewed papers in an effort to make our conclusions widely available to the research community.

  • Market entry strategies

Understanding User Privacy Preferences for mHealth Data Sharing
Aarathi Prasad, Jacob Sorber, Timothy Stablein, Denise Anthony, and David Kotz
Mobile Health (mHealth): Multidisciplinary Verticals, chapter 50, Taylor & Francis (CRC Press), 2014

Exposing Privacy Concerns in mHealth Data Sharing. Master’s Thesis
Aarathi Prasad.
Dartmouth College Computer Science, TR2012-711, February 2012

Understanding Sharing Preferences and Behavior for mHealth Devices
Aarathi Prasad, Jacob Sorber, Timothy Stablein, Denise Anthony, and David Kotz
Proceedings of the Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society (WPES), 2012

Exposing Privacy Concerns in mHealth
Aarathi Prasad, Jacob Sorber, Timothy Stablein, Denise Anthony, and David Kotz
USENIX Workshop on Health Security (HealthSec), August 2011

Can I access your Data? Privacy Management in mHealth
Aarathi Prasad and David Kotz
USENIX Workshop on Health Security (HealthSec), August 2010