Dalhousie University App That Tracks Mental Health Raises Privacy Concerns
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Dalhousie University App That Tracks Mental Health Raises Privacy Concerns

Developing a mental health App is no easy task, especially if we consider the work done in the past, in the field, by various organizations or companies. Dalhousie University is one of the organizations that undertook this task, producing PROSIT, an app that can detect anxiety or depression, for example, based on user interaction with the device.

PROSIT can track most of the patient data, and analyze it to produce a diagnosis based on the way the patient exercises, makes calls or messages a person, music and movie choice, sleep, or social media use. On top of the tracked data, the App asks the user to record a 90-second audio clip that portrays the happiest moment of the week, and catalog feelings on a scale from one to five. In essence, PROSIT tracks all the data that the user inputs into the phone, form how fast they type, to the way they push down on the screen, to understand if they have any mental health problems. At the moment, 300 people are using the App, with at least half being a placebo patient, and the other half, actual patients.

Mental wellbeing is the first concern of the App, and PROSIT and the team behind it are aware of what kind of problem an app like this will pose to a potential user. On the other hand, all the data is essential to paint a picture of a person’s mental health, to understand the patient, and correctly indicate what causes the problem. The data gathered by the App can also help the patient to track behavior and habits outside any source of help or therapy, indicating if there is a way to curb it if it is damaging to the patient.

Right now, the 300 participants are required to sign a consent form to access the App, as the Dalhousie University vowed to store all the data gathered in an encrypted-secure location. The university acknowledges the potential harm the users might face if any of the data is made public but also stresses the fact that the information collected is imperative for a better understanding of the human mind.

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