Is big data good for our health?

Data. xresh on pixabay

With more and more information about us available electronically and online, the latest episode of the LSE iQ podcast asks, ‘Is big data good for our health?’ 

Advances in bio-medical technologies, along with electronic health records and the information we generate through our mobile phones, smartwatches or Fitbits, our social media posts and search engine queries, mean that there is a torrent of information about our bodies, our health and our diseases out there.  

Alongside this, the tremendous growth in computing power and data storage means that this ‘Big Data’ can be stored and aggregated and then analysed by sophisticated algorithms for connections, comparisons and insights.  

The promise of all of this is that big data will create opportunities for medical breakthroughs, help tailor medical interventions to us as individuals and create technologies that will speed up and improve healthcare.  

And, of course, during the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve also seen some countries use data, generated from people’s mobile phones, to track and trace the disease.  

All of this poses opportunities for the tech giants and others who want to be part of the goldrush for our data -  and to then sell solutions back to us  

What are the risks in handing over our most personal data? Will it allow big data to deliver on its hype? And is it a fair exchange? 

In this episode of LSE iQ, Oliver Johnson speaks to Dr Leeza Osipenko, Senior Lecturer in Practice in LSE’s Department of Health Policy; Professor Barbara Prainsack, Professor of Comparative Policy Analysis at the University of Vienna and Professor Sociology at King’s College London; Dr Stephen L. Roberts, Lecturer in Global Health at UCL (formerly LSE Fellow in Global Health Policy in LSE’s Department of Health Policy); and Dr James Somauroo, founder of the healthtech agency somX and presenter of The Health-Tech Podcast.  

For this episode, and our complete back catalogue, visit the LSE player or find us on your favourite podcast app. We're also now available on Spotify.