Protecting Privacy in a Connected World

When Andrew Willis and I founded Crossix in 2005, data privacy was an obscure topic for a handful of researchers and specialist lawyers. Today it’s on the front page of Buzzfeed.

In recent weeks, news headlines about data privacy practices have made people feel that their trust has been violated. Consumers are not only startled to be confronted with the wealth of data that their activities create, but also are angered by the sale and use of that data to companies who seem more concerned with commercial success than with guarding the information of users.

I’m saddened to see such misuse of trust by these companies, and the disquiet it’s brought to many – but I’m glad that awareness of data privacy is becoming common.

Nearly 15 years ago, we founded Crossix based on the notion that data vital to helping healthcare companies reach their audiences effectively would be connected in a manner that not only meets, but exceeds, thresholds set forth under the HIPAA privacy act.

Privacy Embedded in Technology
Since then, many other companies have seen the “analytics” light, but their privacy solutions are often attempts to retrofit privacy guardrails onto data, even onto datasets that are new and were never contemplated by their legacy design. In contrast, Crossix technology was built to protect healthcare patients, by design.

We’ve grown and changed as a company, remaining on the leading edge of advances in technology and data analysis, but our basic approach remains the same: Privacy First.

The life-saving potential of healthcare data
The sheer amount of data that one individual creates can be staggering, and is often surprising, even to those of us in the business. Recent headlines have led some to desire a total lockdown on personal information in all respects.

That’s why I think it’s vital to remember how much we all owe to health data. De-identified data has improved health systems, guided public policy decisions and improved standards of care. Enormous value can be created in healthcare when we combine traditionally siloed claims, clinical and healthcare data with information that completes the picture of the patient as an individual. We can understand the complex world of disease like never before.

Our Shared Responsibility
There is more that each of us in the ecosystem must do. If we want to benefit from the value of this data, we must do the work on the privacy front. It is our responsibility as an industry to ask the questions, to review the HIPAA certifications, to make sure that the use case in question is clearly contemplated in the certification. Some use cases are very new, even to decades-old companies – there are no automatic approvals. We are all responsible to ensure we advance healthcare while protecting privacy.

In June, Crossix will be hosting an event to advance the discussion around healthcare data analytics and privacy. I invite my colleagues across the healthcare marketing and data ecosystem to join us. If you are interested in participating, please email for more details.

I believe passionately in the life-changing value that data can provide to improve health outcomes – but equally passionately in the need to protect the privacy of the patients we are working to help. In order to continue to earn the trust of healthcare companies, data providers, and, most importantly, consumers, we need to maintain transparency around the use of data.

This ongoing conversation around privacy is vital in a world that’s creating data at exponential rates.