Facebook wants to tear down the last bastion of our privacy by gathering health data

By Nathaniel Mott , written on October 3, 2014

From The News Desk

Facebook isn't content with knowing everything about your digital life -- now it wants to know about the meat husk your mind uses to interact with its service and its advertisements, too.

Reuters reports that the company plans to move into the healthcare space with disease-centric communities on its social network and preventative care applications for mobile devices, citing three people familiar with Facebook's plans.

Gathering health information has become something of an obsession for the tech industry, with Apple and Google creating tools to help people track all of the wellness-related data they might care about (so long as none of it has to do with something that affects most women each month).

This obsession is yet another example of the tech industry's systematic degradation of the few barriers that stand between them and complete knowledge about the millions (or billions) of people who use its wares every day. Google made its way into our homes with its Dropcam acquisition. Apple built increasingly observant sensors into its iPhones. Facebook figured out how to track people around the Web even as they move between smartphones, tablets, and PCs.

But there's something uniquely worrisome about allowing these companies, two of which base their businesses on providing data to advertisers, to gather information about our bodies. Homes change. Ads based on browsing activity are creepy but usually harmless. Our bodies, however, are obviously more personal than our surroundings or our online movements.

Figuring out how to handle our bodies is a constant struggle. There's a reason going through puberty can be so horrifyingly difficult, and a lot of it has to do with the fight to learn about a changing body. Diseases can make it difficult to do ordinary tasks, so we have to learn how to work around them. And mental disorders, despite their physical origins, are so stigmatized that it's difficult for their sufferers to even admit the problem to themselves, let alone advertisers.

Allowing companies to quantify all those confusing conditions with the intent of selling the resulting data to advertisers might be the final threshold between them and total knowledge. There's nothing more personal, or more worthy of defending, than our bodies and our struggle to accept them despite their faults. Should companies like Facebook be privy to that struggle?