Google recently integrated calorie consumption information into their IOS Google Maps application. Mapping queries traditionally met with routes alone included information about calorie burn when walked. The feature was withdrawn when met with pushback from some claiming that this unsolicited information was detrimental to those with body image issues.
The intensity of the ensuing social chatter was compounded by Google’s choice to equate specific caloric expenditures with mini cupcakes.
I found this remarkable. It raises interesting questions surrounding technology, information and the individual experience of living with disease.
We increasingly operate under the belief that more information is better information. Information may not be good for everyone. Or specific information may be beneficial at certain times or certain places. In a world of exploding information, context is king. This fact is never more evident than in health and wellness.
But where does the responsibility fall in protecting those claiming to be hurt by the data technology brings us? Developers will be unable to account for every way that their technology will impact users. Should the sensibilities of those struggling with an isolated condition dictate product features that may benefit a larger population? And if knowledge of energy expenditure represents an unfathomable challenge for some, should Fitbit or Apple remove products that measure it?
As digital health continues to march and as novel product features emerge, this question of individual versus industry responsibility will re-emerge.