FemTech companies, in addressing women’s health, more often than not rely on processing personal and sensitive information. This collection obviously depends on the purpose of the FemTech company. However, this data can span from contact information to health data and more recently, genetic data.
With big FemTech companies like Flo, allegedly disclosing sensitive health information, such as users’ pregnancy, to third parties there is a growing wariness about data security within the industry. With this in mind, we asked two experts in data security and data regulation how they thought the FemTech space could better equip themselves in data protection and security issues.
What are the key data privacy concerns for FemTech?
Sharon Holm, COO at GenoBank.io, was very clear when she said “FemTech companies must ensure that information concerning consumer data, analysis, and research is conducted and provided securely and ethically.”
Sharon went onto say, “FemTech companies must be transparent and must consider and include in their business model data protection technology and high-tech security controls that will restrict access as well as fraud or data breach by outside entities and ensure the privacy of their consumers’/users’ data as well as the security and welfare for their consumers/users.”
Similarly, Lisa Falco who has developed algorithms and products in the MedTech space for over fifteen years, says, “FemTech companies often deal with very sensitive and intimate data and protecting the customers’ privacy is crucial. Obviously from a moral perspective, but it is also a legal necessity. Nowadays a strong privacy concept can also be positive from a PR perspective.”
What should FemTech companies take into account?
Our two experts both highlighted GDPR as a good starting point for all FemTech companies to understand.
As Sharon noted, “New privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA are a win for consumers worldwide and require companies to comply with how they handle data or face disciplinary action against potential privacy claims. As a result of this, companies will spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars on data compliance annually.”
Sharon, whose company GenoBank.io, has made the provision of security and privatisation of the FemTech users data a mission “offers an end-to-end solution that provides indemnity against potential data privacy claims providing the world’s first platform that leverages blockchain technology to ensure privacy and control of your genetic data.”
Sharon went onto explain that GenoBank.io, “is virtually un-hackable, decentralised, and encrypted to protect your data. We also give ownership to the users; they control what they do with their data and how they use their data.”
What strategies should FemTech companies employ to be secure?
Lisa Falco, Head of Product at Pipra, a company that develops AI-based tools to predict postoperative complications, laid out how FemTech companies can best solve these issues.
“It is easier to consider the privacy concerns from the beginning when you design a system than to change it later.
You should use the principles of “Privacy by design” and “Privacy by default”. That means that sensitive user data should be stored in a way that cannot be easily traced back to the user identity. An example of this is that user data and user identities can be stored on different servers, this makes it easier to anonymise and potential hackers need to hack several servers to get the data linked to a person.
If data is used for research purposes, it is important that the user has given her agreement and that the data is fully anonymised. The user should herself be in control of who she would like to share her data with, and the default should be that she shares it with no one.
The user also has “the right to be forgotten”, this means that you should have a system where you can easily remove a users data if she wishes.”
As Sharon Holm, ends with, “consumers/users should not have to worry about who has access to their data and suffer the feeling of being violated. They should be able to have full trust in the FemTech companies and the offerings/solutions they provide.”
Sharon Holm – is based in Miami, Florida, USA, and is the COO at GenoBank.io. As a consumer of several FemTech companies this particularly important to her.
From a business perspective, the importance of providing security and privatisation of the FemTech consumers’/users’ personal information, test data, and results has been a mission for the GenoBank.io team.
Lisa Falco – has developed algorithms and products in the MedTech space for 15 years, and has a PhD in Biomedical imaging.
She is currently Head of Product at Pipra, where they develop AI based tools to predict postoperative complications.
She previously led the data science team at Ava Women.