Facebook, the mammoth social network that seems to know everything about us yet still can’t serve us good ads, is looking to expand its scope even further by jumping into the health care field.
According to Reuters, the social network’s plans are still in their infancy, but in recent months Facebook has met with health care industry experts and is in the midst of setting up a research and development team to test health-related apps.
Facebook’s product teams have noticed that users with chronic conditions are asking their Facebook friends for advice, so Facebook is looking to create “support communities” where users who share a common medical issue can talk about their health and connect with each other. It is also exploring “preventative care” apps to track health and lifestyle.
Of course, Facebook wants to keep up with the Joneses–namely Apple’s Health Kit and Google Fit. But Facebook executives cite another motivating factor: the success of their 2012 “organ-donor status initiative” which allowed people to list their organ donor status on their profile. More than 13,000 people in the U.S. registered to become organ donors the day it launched.
Privacy is a natural concern. Medical data is protected by law, and Facebook doesn’t have the best privacy track record. Over the years, the social network has disappointed users with ever-changing privacy policies and even spurred Congress to investigate its practices.
It makes sense for a company like Facebook, which already has a ubiquitous presence in many Americans’ lives, to enter the health and fitness market. How exactly that will function, if it comes to fruition, remains to be seen.