Here's how: One of the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit is Pascal Abidor, a U.S. citizen and a doctoral student in Islamic studies. The suit (PDF) contends that Abidor's constitutional free-speech and privacy rights were violated when his computer was searched and then seized by U.S. Customs officials while he was traveling via an Amtrak train between Montreal and New York. According to the ACLU, based on records it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, more than 6,500 people, including nearly 3,000 Americans like Abidor, had their computers or other electronic devices searched at U.S. borders between Oct. 1, 2008, and June 2, 2010.
Now consider the following: This week in San Diego, veteran health IT maven C. Peter Waegemann is hosting his second annual mHealth Initiative conference. According to Waegemann's organization, mobile phones will revolutionize healthcare IT. Smartphones already offer physicians and other healthcare professionals portable access to an expanding universe of online clinical information. Their most important future benefit, however, will be as enablers of what Waegemann's group calls "participatory health," defined as "the new paradigm that involves healthy people, patients, wellness and care providers, payers, pharma, researchers and public health as active participants in a healthcare system that is open and transparent, with the patient at its center."
Veteran physician informaticist William Bria, the president of the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems, also predicted in a recent e-mail about net neutrality, smartphones and health information exchanges, or HIEs, that "we're about a year or so away from a revolution that will make HIEs pointless as patients will be the gatekeepers of their medical records, and what we'll have to do is connect and re-upload to their mobile devices."
Now, just imagine, thousands of traveling Americans in the next couple of years having their health records downloaded from their smartphones, perused, matched with other personal information and distributed by the Department of Homeland Security to the FBI and other national security agencies.
Think of the inevitable news stories about these searches and seizures. Do you think they might have a chilling effect on the mobile health revolution?
Yeah, me too.