The news: Facebook has launched a new preventive health tool that lets US users opt in for reminders to get health checkups, vaccines, and cancer screenings. The initial focus is on heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in the US, plus flu. Facebook plans to expand the range of illnesses, and countries, covered. It has partnered with several US health organizations for the launch.
How it will work: People can search for Preventive Health in Facebook’s mobile app to find out which checkups are recommended by the partner organizations, based on that person’s age and sex. For example, women aged 45 to 55 are recommended to get a mammogram every year. Reminders for flu shots will pop up at the appropriate time of the year. Users can use the tool to set reminders for tests, and mark when they are completed.
Some background: This isn’t Facebook’s first foray into health: it has a feature that helps people sign up as blood donors which has been used by more than 50 million people so far, it said. The difference here is the focus on preventing people from getting sick in the first place.
But, but: While the cause is worthy, it involves the most private data being collected by Facebook, a company that has repeatedly been hit by data privacy scandals over the last year. The company says it has introduced extra safeguards for data entered into the app, and won’t show ads based on the data that users provide. However, Facebook is relying on enough people to take it at its word at a time when trust in the company is at rock bottom, especially in the US.
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