VGI and Public Health: Possibilities and Pitfalls
Recent advances in technologies that allow for the collection of volunteered geographic information (VGI) are providing new opportunities for health research. These technologies provide for the collection of time-sensitive, fluid data from a broad pool of subjects using sophisticated yet easy-to-use data collection tools – principally the smartphone and other location-aware devices. Never before has it been so easy for health researchers to collect and analyze real-time location-based data. The result of which can provide continuously updated datasets that often capture a more than just a snapshot of events or environmental factors. These technologies also allow the researcher to create novel datasets that do not presently exist. However, the use of such technologies to collect potentially identifiable data poses risks to both the researcher and the subject. The tools introduce new challenges and ethical problems if used improperly for health research. This chapter investigates both the potential of VGI in public health research while discussing some challenges of using technology platforms that can leverage and provide collection tools for volunteered geographic information.
KeywordsGeographic Information System Short Message Service Health Information Technology Personal Health Record Volunteer Geographic Information
The authors would like to thank the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) for contributions and feedback on this chapter. Christopher Goranson works for the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping, of The New School, and previously worked for the NYC DOHMH. Sayone Thihalolipavan works for the NYC DOHMH, and Nicolás di Tada works for Innovative Support to Emergencies Diseases and Disasters (InSTEDD).
- Ars Technica. (2012). “Mobile device privacy act” would prevent secret smartphone monitoring. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/01/mobile-device-privacy-act-would-prevent-secret-smartphone-monitoring.ars. Accessed 31 Jan 2012.
- Brownstein, J., Cassa, C., Kohane, I., & Mandl, K. (2005). Reverse geocoding: Concerns about patient confidentiality in the display of geospatial health data. AMIA Annual Symposium Proceedings, 2005, 905.Google Scholar
- CNET. (2011). Declan McCullagh. Microsoft’s web map exposes phone, PC locations. http://news.cnet.com/8301–31921_3–20085028–281/microsofts-web-map-exposes-phone-pc-locations/. Accessed 2 Aug 2011.Google Scholar
- DHHS (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services). (2011). Understanding health information privacy. http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/index.html. Accessed 13 Aug 2011.
- FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). (2011). Institutional review boards frequently asked questions – Information sheet. http://www.fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Guidances/ucm126420.htm. Accessed 13 Aug 2011.
- Forbes. (2011). Facebook’s privacy issues are even deeper than we knew. http://www.forbes.com/sites/chunkamui/2011/08/08/facebooks-privacy-issues-are-even-deeper-than-we-knew/. Accessed 14 Aug 2011.
- Goodchild, M. (2011). Firenze: The Vespucci Institute. 9th Summer Institute on Geographic Information Science.Google Scholar
- Google. (2012). One policy, one Google experience. http://www.google.com/policies/. Accessed 30 Jan 2012.
- HON (Health On the Net Foundation). (2011). The HON code of conduct for medical and health web sites (HONcode). http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/Conduct.html. Accessed 6 Aug 2011.
- InSTEDD. (2011). GeoChat. http://instedd.org/technologies/geochat/. Accessed 14 Aug 2011.
- Microsoft Health Vault. (2011a). Microsoft HealthVault account privacy statement. https://account.healthvault.com/help.aspx?topicid=PrivacyPolicy&culture=en-US. Accessed 6 Aug 2011.
- Microsoft Health Vault. (2011b). Welcome, Google Health users. http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/healthvault/google-health.aspx. Accessed 6 Aug 2011.
- NIH (National Institutes of Health). (2007) Health services research and the HIPAA privacy rule. http://privacyruleandresearch.nih.gov/healthservicesprivacy.asp. Accessed 13 Aug 2011.
- NIH (National Institutes of Health). (2012). Clinical research training on-line – Based on a presentation by E. J. Emanuel, M.D, Ph.D. http://www.cc.nih.gov/training/training/crt.html. Accessed 13 Jan 2012.
- NYC DOHMH (Department of Health and Mental Hygiene). (2009). Community health survey: Survey data on the health of all New Yorkers. http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/survey/survey.shtml. Accessed 13 Aug 2011.
- ODK (OpenDataKit). (2011). About. http://opendatakit.org/about/. Accessed 24 June 2011.
- OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium). (2011). KML – OGC KML. http://www.opengeospatial.org/standards/kml. Accessed 1 Aug 2011.
- ONCHIT (The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology). (2010a). http://healthit.hhs.gov/portal/server.pt/community/joy_pritts_-_chief_privacy_officer/1798/home/17792. Accessed 13 Aug 2011.
- ONCHIT (The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology). (2010b). Building trust in health information exchange: Statement on privacy and security. http://healthit.hhs.gov/portal/server.pt?CommunityID=2994&spaceID=11&parentname=CommunityEditor&control=SetCommunity&parentid=9&in_hi_userid=11673&PageID=0&space=CommunityPage. Accessed 13 Aug 2011.
- ONCHIT (The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology). (2011). Draft personal health record (PHR) model notice (2011). http://healthit.hhs.gov/portal/server.pt/community/healthit_hhs_gov__draft_phr_model_notice/1176. Accessed 5 July 2011.
- Penn State (John A. Dutton e-Education Institute). (2010). Ethics education for geospatial professionals. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/research/projects/gisethics/. Accessed 24 June 2011.
- Smith, L., Goranson, C., Bryon, B., Kerker, B., & Nonas, C. (2011). Developing a supermarket need index. In J. A. Mantaay & S. McClafferty (Eds.), Geospatial analysis of environmental health (Geotechnologies and the Environment, Vol. 4). Dordrecht/New York: Springer Science + Business Media B.V.Google Scholar
- The Telegraph. (2010). India has more mobile phones than toilets: UN report. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/7593567/India-has-more-mobile-phones-than-toilets-UN-report.html. Accessed 18 June 2011.
- NYT (New York Times) (2012). Justices say GPS tracker violated privacy rights. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/24/us/police-use-of-gps-is-ruled-unconstitutional.html. Accessed 30 Jan 2012.