Would you trust Zuckerberg with medical information?

Zuckerberg transformed. From fresh-faced college nerd to 21st Century mobster. Powerful. Overbearing. Manipulative. With a track record that renders him less trustworthy than a used car salesman. And yet, 3.5 billion of us trust Mark Zuckerberg every single month. We trust him with our data on Facebook and Instagram and we trust him with our conversations on Messenger and WhatsApp.

The truth is, most of us just aren’t really that bothered.

We’ve seen Zuckerberg’s private” messages, in which he quite literally calls thousands of Facebook users dumb f***s” for trusting him with their data, and we’re equally familiar with the data breaches and vulnerabilities associated with Facebook-owned services. For crying out loud, even Facebook’s legal counsel says that there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy” on Facebook or any other social media site.

But none of this really matters to Facebook. Not even the Cambridge Analytica scandal – which revealed that personal information harvested from more than 50 million Facebook profiles was used without consent for the purpose of political manipulation – has rocked the social networking service or seriously impacted upon the many thousands of users who log in to the app as habitually as brushing their teeth.

It’s almost part of the deal. It shouldn’t be, it just is. And with a collective shrug of the shoulders – and with a tap and a swipe – billions of us will continue to use Facebook and other Facebook-owned services today, tomorrow and into the foreseeable future. And to be honest, for the vast majority of us, it doesn’t really matter if our conversations or personal data are at risk of breach. Shall we go to the pub?” isn’t exactly confidential. Do with that what you please, Mr Zuckerberg.

However, the problem is not that instant messengers are being used for menial conversations, the problem is that they have become so ingrained within the fabric of day-to-day life that they are being used in circumstances they reallyshouldn’t be.

The situation is particularly worrying in healthcare. A recent study by BMJ innovations revealed that 97% of healthcare professionals routinely use unofficial web-based messaging apps to share private medical data and patient information without consent, despite the fact 68% were concerned about sharing information in this way.

Unfortunately, their concern is justified. As obvious as it may sound, consumer mobile messaging services are not designed, developed or tested with the healthcare sector in mind. They’re therefore unsuitable for use in it, as they are unable to uphold the additional security and privacy standards that healthcare professionals are required to adhere to in order to protect their patients’ information.

You simply can’t trust them to keep patient data or confidential medical information secure. This is perhaps best illustrated by considering some of the default features of these consumer messenger apps. To name but one, the WhatsApp photos and videos feature, which automatically saves photographs and videos received through the app onto your camera roll.

So then, why on earth do so many healthcare professionals continue to use consumer messengers? Well, the answer is pretty straightforward: they’re efficient, clinically useful and freely available.

Why wouldn’t you use a tool that makes you more efficient? A tool that allows you to communicate within clinical teams and across organisational boundaries? A tool that has the potential to reduce the burden of heavy workloads and allows you to spend more time with your patients? You would. And that’s why the use of WhatsApp is pervasive in the health and care setting.

But it no longer needs to be.

You no longer need to trust Zuck with patient data or confidential medical information. That’s right, more appropriate messaging solutions do exist; there are apps designed specifically for the healthcare industry by people who fundamentally understand it.

Within healthcare, it’s critical that this becomes more widely understood. We need to shine a light on the risks that healthcare professionals are taking when they are using consumer messengers to share sensitive clinical information, and we need to support them in finding a suitable alternative messaging platform.

And that’s why we’ve started the #WhyTrustZuck campaign. We feel that it’s important to raise awareness of the link between Zuckerberg and WhatsApp. We want to shine a light on the risks that healthcare professionals are taking when they are using WhatsApp to share sensitive clinical information. And we want to urge Trusts to take the issue seriously, and for them to support their staff in finding a suitable alternative messaging platform. Because whether or not you trust Mark Zuckerberg with patient data or confidential medical information, you no longer have to. And, more importantly, you shouldn’t.