Apple…The Internet of Things…23andMe
We all love technology! Who doesn’t have a smartphone loaded with the trendiest apps, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.? I even work for a company devoted to the creation and delivery of technology based solutions for the small-medium business segment.
Recently, the executives at Apple refused to comply with an order to break into an iPhone used by one of the alleged criminals involved in the 2015 San Bernadino, CA shooting incident. As USA Today documented in the article titled, Here’s why the FBI forcing Apple to break into an iPhone is a big deal. The battle of data encryption has been a hot button issue since the ground breaking revelations of Edward Snowden in the Guardian regarding the creation of backdoor portals for customer data sharing between technology companies and the U.S. Government.
In a reaction to the global maelstrom generated by the Snowden articles, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter announced they would cease creating portals for the government spying on their products. The Apple announcement on February 17th reinforces their earlier policy statement.
Graduating to the Internet of Things (IoT), protecting the privacy of customer data doesn’t appear to be an important issue for some technology companies. For example, Samsung, Amazon, LG, Microsoft, Google, and Jawbone are mentioned in a 2015 Daily Mail article titled, It’s not just smart TVs. Your home is full of gadgets that spy on you: How internet giants are collecting your personal data through their high-tech devices.
The article describes how companies use their smart platforms to collect and disseminate customer spoken voice, email, and personal images to their data centers. The article also contrasts the current IoT to the dystopian novel 1984 penned by George Orwell, a.k.a Eric Blair. In summary, the Daily Mail article suggests that we eliminate the smart moniker and replace it with the more appropriate designation of spying device.
23AndMe is receiving a considerable amount of favorable press in 2016. Celebrity endorsements, spit parties, and the 2008 partnership with Ancestry.com enabled 23andMe to rocket from a nascent startup to media darling.
They are making a comeback after their 2013 ban by the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in selling their home health saliva kits, FDA Just Banned 23andMe’s DNA Testing Kits, and Users Are Fighting Back. The kits were deemed a hazard due to the potential health consequences of false readings, positive or negative, provided by the company to their customers. 23AndMe received limited FDA approval to return to the US market in 2015. As of this writing, the kits are currently marketed on the beautifully designed 23andMe website for $199.00.
On the surface, services provided by 23andMe appear beneficent. After all, they provide customers with data that can only enhance their lives. Either the prognosis is thumbs up no worries or they alert you to potentially harmful genetic variables that may be indicators of future health issues. Armed with the information, 23andMe customers may take corrective action to prevent negative health consequences.
It’s all good, right? Perhaps, but some argue that a private corporation now has the ultimate level of biological and health information for each of it’s customers. What is 23andMe doing with this data?
According to an article from Gizmodo, Of Course 23andMe’s Plan Has Been to Sell Your Genetic Data All Along, they are selling it to multi-national corporations.
Yes, they are selling customer’s genetic, lifestyle, and health data. Ironically, 23andMe customers voluntarily provided this information to them without remuneration.
As an educated populace, we should all place a high value on our personal privacy. We’ve all witnessed malevolent uses of data such as identity theft or burglaries based on social media information.
I am thankful to work at a company where a customer’s personal data is sacrosanct.
We take serious measures to protect all customer data from security breaches. We value the trust that our customers place in us as an organization and work diligently every day to earn that trust.
Randall Smith – StratoSTACK Product Manager
Illustrations and Copy Edit: Jaime Baldwin- StratoSTACK Digital Media Specialist