People already fear about artificial intelligence ultimately taking over people and their jobs. A new study has added to these concerns by stating that AI advances will create new threats to people’s private health data.

advances in AI threatens privacy of health data

A study conducted by University of California, Berkeley shows that AI is advancing rapidly and its advances have given birth to new threats to the privacy of people’s health data. It suggests that current laws are nowhere near adequate to keep a person’s health status private in the face of AI development.

The research published in the journal JAMA Network Open stated that by using AI, it is possible to detect individuals by learning daily patterns in step data such as that collected by activity trackers, smartphones and smartwatches, and correlating it to demographic data.

The research was done over a two year time period, covering over 15,000 Americans. The team mentioned that the problem isn’t with the devices, but with how the data taken by the devices can be misused and potentially sold on open market.

“In principle, you could imagine Facebook gathering step data from the app on your smartphone, then buying health care data from another company and matching the two. Now they would have health care data that’s matched to names, and they could either start selling advertising based on that or they could sell the data to others,” said lead researcher Anil Aswani.

“I’m not saying we should abandon these devices, but we need to be very careful about how we are using this data. We need to protect the information. If we can do that, it’s a net positive.”

Aswani also mentioned that the regulations within US’ 1996’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) are incapable of keeping health information safe and private and needs to be revisited and reworked upon.